I always believed that teaching empathy and compassion to our kids is as important as teaching them good manners. It is our job as parents to explain the meaning and importance of both, empathy is the ability to experience for yourself some of the pain that the other person may be experiencing and compassion is to translate that feeling into action. So how do you teach that?

Here are 6 tips to start raising a compassionate child:

Set an Example. Children hear everything you say but they mimic everything you do. I remind myself of this constantly. I can’t teach my child empathy and compassion without BEING an example myself. One way you can do this is to make an effort to help those in need whenever you are capable, whether it’s helping a friend out with babysitting or giving a homeless man a meal.

Volunteer. Whether you volunteer once a month or a couple times a year, get out and volunteer as a family. Take turns picking a project or cause to volunteer with, do research, have family meetings on why it’s important to be apart of a community. It doesn’t hurt that volunteering as a family has been proven over and over again to strengthen families as a whole too.

Celebrate Differences. Not everyone looks the same or acts the same, and that is OK! God made us all different for a reason and we must celebrate that. Pay compliments to strangers and treat everyone the same, you will be surprised how far that will go.

Donate your birthday to a local charity. Commit as a family to donate each one of your birthdays to a local charity or cause of your choice. It may not be a favorable quest, especially for the kids but I promise the reward is great. My son recently donated his 7th birthday to his choosing of “helping the doggies” at our local S.P.C.A. He wasn’t too happy when we decided to do it but once we collected all the items and donated them, he surprisingly expressed how good it felt to do something so kind. He even did a happy dance!

Be Consistent. This is so important. Consistency is key to many things and this is one of them. Just like with any parenting obligation, when you are consistent, behaviors change.

Communication. Explaining the whos, whats, and whys, in an age appropriate manner, for each of the suggestions above is just as important as consistency. Why are we volunteering? Why is everyone special in their own way? Why do the doggies at the SPCA need help? These are examples of how to start conversations that can lead to other questions and create opportunities to learn and grow as a person.

Good luck and thank you for making the world a kinder place!