Caring Kids Cultivate Compassion

Kate's Keep Trying Mom Picture

By Parri Black, Courier & Press, Nov. 3, 2015 –

We’ve all had one of those days when nothing goes right and everything goes wrong.

My niece — the mother of three children ages 2, 4 and 6 — had “one of those days” this summer, but thankfully, it ended with some profound words of wisdom.

It was the first day of summer, a time to relax, or so she thought. No rushing around to get ready and dash out the door to school, day care and work.

However, this moment of bliss quickly turned into a series of trying events, lengthy work-related phone calls and simultaneous knocks at the door, all the while Mom was still in her pajamas and trying to keep the kids entertained.

Then the toddler locked herself in the house while everyone else was outside, so Dad had to come home and save the day, but it wasn’t over yet.

This same adorable child decided to throw an hour long temper tantrum because she was dressed in the “wrong clothes” to walk the dog.

Just before bedtime, the sensitive big sister came to the rescue with an amazing gift for her frazzled mom.

She created a masterpiece with magic markers, a sign simply reading: “Keep Trying Mom.”

This 6-year-old’s sweet gesture illustrates how well she has already grasped at least two important life skills.

The first is the power of persistence, or as the proverb says, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.”

There’s a reason why tenacity is the theme of many children’s books such as “The Little Engine That Could.” Now often referred to as “grit,” this is one of the characteristics that can predict success in school and in life.

Another vital social skill is the one that motivated her message in the first place — empathy. She could tell mom needed some encouragement after a very bad day.

With the words “Keep Trying Mom,” she was also communicating how much she cared. Researchers say children as young as one or two can demonstrate empathy by acting in a caring way toward others.

Good parents start instilling these life lessons early, not only by what they say but also by what they do. Children need love and limits, a home environment that provides discipline and guidance with a healthy dose of understanding and kindness.

Studies have linked the lack of empathy in children to bullying and other disruptive behaviors as well as juvenile delinquency, so it’s a very important skill to cultivate.

Caring, compassionate parents usually raise caring, compassionate children, but teachers and mentors can also help children practice and develop their concern for others.

Friends recently shared a great example of empathy turned into action when their middle school daughter noticed a fellow student who had few friends and low self-esteem.

On her own, she decided to help by quietly sending a daily text message to her classmate. They were positive affirmations like,”Your new shoes are cute,” or “Great job on your science project.”

She sent a text every day without fail for months, a simple act of compassion that buoyed the spirits of another child.

When my friends later learned about their daughter’s initiative, they were amazed, grateful and no doubt, proud.

Just as parents encourage empathy in their kids, kindhearted children can also inspire compassion in adults.