How to raise a kind & caring child

Bring up a kid who truly cares for others ― follow this guide to raising thoughtful and compassionate children.  


Has your child ever hurt another by saying something unkind or failed to help to someone in need? In fact, you not only cringed in embarrassment, you might have wondered where you’d gone wrong as a parent.

            But just how do you “teach” kindness? After all, it’s not as straightforward as teaching her the alphabet and 123, or even how to put on her own shoes. If anything, the parents of today are too indulgent with their children. Dr Foo Koong Hean, a James Cook University (Singapore) researcher and psychotherapist, likens this trend of parents splurging and being overly indulgent with their children to “filial parenting”.

            “Parents are doing everything and anything to be filial to their children, so that they have a good life and don’t suffer,” explains Dr Foo, who has just published Negotiation Parenting or How to Not Raise a Brat in Today’s Complex World.

            The sad result is a younger generation that feels “extra special, entitled” and who “find it hard to accept failure”, Dr Foo says. These are the very reasons why this cohort fails to consider the needs of others — in other words, to be kind and compassionate.

            But no matter how old your child is, you can help junior become that nice kid by tweaking your parenting approach.

Make it a point to remind her that others matter. A simple way is to talk about your feelings more.

1. Build empathy

Empathy ― the ability to understand and be sensitive to other people's feelings ― allows us to feel an attachment to our family, friends, and even strangers. Putting yourself in someone else's shoes also triggers other caring emotions like gratitude and compassion.

            But first, junior needs to accept that the world doesn’t just revolve around her. Says Dr Foo, “If you are constantly serving her and making sure she’s eaten, she’s not going to worry about whether others — her sibling, or even you — have had your meal.”

            Make it a point to remind her that others matter. A simple way is to talk about your feelings more. For instance, if you’ve had a hard day at work, you can share with your little one that you were nervous during your presentation, and the relief you felt when a colleague helped you out. Read books and watch shows that express the way people feel — you can then talk to your child about how you identify with a certain character, and ask her whom she can identify with.

            Another way is to expose her to the less fortunate in society. Volunteering for a social cause, or baking cookies for a neighbour’s disabled kid will help her realise that, there are other people and things in the world worth caring about.

2. Promote gentleness

Whether it’s a younger sibling or a pet, point out that she has to be careful and gentle in the way she treats them. If she grabs her younger brother roughly, take her hand and show her how a gentle touch feels.

            Make sure your child is also on the receiving end of gentleness. When she is sick or hurt, showing gentle care and concern won’t just help her experience compassion first-hand, she’ll learn how to show compassion to others. And sure, there’ll be times you get mad at her, but instead of yelling, speaking in a soft and controlled, but firm voice, to show her that shouting isn’t the way to go when she’s angry.

Click for four more tips on how to raise an empathetic child…