The world, both online and off, can be a very unkind and unpleasant place. Even as adults we find ourselves ill equipped to deal with both the awfulness and unnecessary callousness of it all. Unfortunately, if we’ve gotten this far, past childhood, through adolescence and we still have little compassion, then it’s probably fair to say we missed out on the fundamentals when we were younger.
Many of our current politicians are a shining example of what it looks like to lack compassion. It would appear that many of them aren’t aware what it means to ‘not judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes’. Probably because most have come from very white, very privileged backgrounds and have never had to venture outside their own lives for more than a well documented media opportunity. They don’t know what it is to worry about how they will feed their family next week or pay the rent. Or contemplate exactly what they would be capable of doing if their own children were facing probable death if they remained in a violent, war-torn country.
Babies however, aren’t born knowing the difference. They aren’t born racist or homophobic or elitist. They are however, born hungry. At first, hungry for sustenance but as they grow, they are simply hungry for love, encouragement and information.
The definition of compassion is “a sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” Compassion isn’t automatically inbuilt in all of us but it can be taught and understood. We, as parents, have a duty to teach our children that we are all born equal and not one of us are more worthy than the other. And we should always do whatever we can do, when possible, to help our fellow man.
As parents, we an teach our children compassion in the following ways:
1. Be a role model
Total cliché but here it is. Practice what you preach. Don’t tell your child to be courteous, kind and look out for his classmate if you’re being a total pretentious twat to the waiter in the coffee shop all because you’ve had to wait a few extra minutes for your latte. ALWAYS be nice. ALWAYS Be polite. Your children will mimic and imitate your behavior. Make sure they have something of quality to model themselves on.
I’m not saying you have to be at the local Bunnings offloading sausages every Sunday on behalf of the school but I am saying that if your children see you actively turning up to the school working bee, or helping out on Christmas Day, feeding the homeless, then they are going to understand how good it feels to help out, expecting absolutely nothing in return.
To see and understand how bloody lucky they are and that it should be second nature to want to help out those less fortunate than themselves.
3. Say thank you
Manners are a lost art. Well that’s what my 80 year old Aunt tells me. I have made a concerted effort to make sure my children say thank you when they receive ANYTHING. From their breakfast every morning to their teacher every afternoon before they leave the classroom, they need to acknowledge, as we do as adults, that someone has done something for them.
4. Own an animal
Owning a pet teaches a child many things. Mostly, it teaches them about caring about something that isn’t themselves. Because let’s face it, kids are fairly self-involved. A pet however is cute and requests nothing in return other than a pet and a cuddle. Oh, and some food. Sadly, they eventually also teach our children about the devastation of loss and death. It’s not pleasant, but it I would suggest, is almost a necessary part of growing up.