Why you should teach kindness and compassion to kids

When kids learn good values, they may even find a way out from peer pressure and bullying.

“If you want others to be happy, practise compassion. If you want to be happy, practise compassion.” Tibetan leader-in-exile, the Dalai Lama, condenses our complex lives into this simple pair of lines — but he has a valid point: If you want to be happy, practise compassion. And if you want your children to grow up to be happy, well, show them how to practise compassion

Fiona Walker, director of schools and principal of the Julia Gabriel Centre, Singapore, says that regardless of your own precise religion or philosophy of life: “Gratitude, compassion, kindness — they’re universal.”

From your own memories of growing up, lecturing your children “to be compassionate” will only exercise their eye rolls, especially as they are in their teens, so you have to be sneaky about teaching these values. Follow our tips to see how.

1. Live it

Yes, you have to set the example. Don’t just zombie your way through life with your nose stuck to your smartphone/tablet — be kind to your children and your spouse, be compassionate with your siblings and friends. You’re not expected to be perfect (Pfffffffft!) but do let your child see that you are making a choice to lead a compassionate life.

2. Say it

“Thank you, that was kind,” or “Thank you, that was nice!” Sure, it’s “just good manners” but make it a habit to be nice in your daily interactions, says Walker, “Showing appreciation for things they do, when they do something that’s nice for you, be quick to say ‘thank you’ to them.”

3. Share it

This is great for you and your spouse because nobody’s perfect, and you will mess up — and you can show your child that you (and they) can fail and still be forgiven and shown kindness. Bonus: Your child practises failure in a safe situation — which leads to resilience! Showing compassion can also be when your spouse or child is sick — show your child how to be kind and caring. Think of it this way: You’ll benefit when you need kindness, too.

4. View it

When your kids are older, sneaking “kind, compassionate” reading into their daily lives may not work. You have an ally: TV. Or movies. You’ll need to sit through the show with them to be able to pick out kind or compassionate acts and discuss them with your child, says Walker. “Some TV shows have strong values they highlight. When watching something together say ‘Oh, that’s so nice…’ when someone does something nice or ‘Oh, look how happy they all are because she did this…’”