10 Ways to Teach Your Kids Compassion

Filed under: Resources, Amazing Parents, Books for Kids, Cabin Fever

Craig Kielburger became famous when, at only twelve years old, he founded a charitable organization to fight child exploitation called Free the Children. Since its humble beginnings in the Kielburger family home in 1995, Free the Children has developed into an international organization that continues to focus on children's rights--and to bring positive change into the lives of the world's most vulnerable children: children of war, children orphaned by natural disaster and disease, and children born into poverty, their futures uncertain.

Most fascinating -- and moving -- is that the goal of this unique organization is to inspire children to discover, develop, and act on their own beliefs. "Children helping children through education," is its tagline.

Big subjects for small people.

But in a new book, The World Needs Your Kid, co-written by Craig and his brother Marc Kielburger, with Shelley Page, the brothers argue that any child has the potential to change the world. And that parents have a big role to play. Written in a light-hearted and easy-to-read style, the book is chockful of practical suggestions that families can easily grab onto and do, while learning and putting into practice the "Three C's": compassion, courage, and community. Some suggestions apply more to older children and teens, and others work for families like ours, with children eight and under.

Cabin Fever urges you to read the book for yourself. But here are our top 10 inspirations from The World Needs Your Kid...

. Eat supper together. Talk about everything. Large and small. This is your time to be together casually, informally, enjoying each other's company.

2. Identify your own priorities, as a parent. This may take some thinking and some work, but it is worth identifying for yourself what you stand for. And then exploring whether these values are visible in your life.

3. Help each child find his or her gift(s). Don't rush. Give your child the freedom to explore. Encourage the effort rather than the results. Suggest practical ways that a child can use his or her gifts to help others.

4. Give your children responsibilities around the house. Let them help, even when they are small and their help seems more of a hindrance. Have patience for trial and error. Give your children problem-solving tools, then step back and let your children find solutions to their own problems. "If you are forever tying his shoes, he might never try on his own."

5. Let your children make mistakes. "Don't always clean up their messes." Keep it in perspective. The most creative people are courageous enough to make mistakes. Making mistakes--and figuring out how to fix something you've done wrong--are among the best ways to learn and to grow.

6. Ask: How would you feel if ...? Ask your child to put herself into someone else's shoes.

7. Hang a map of the world on the wall. "When you discuss issues with your kids, help them locate the country you are discussing."

8. Discuss the headlines. This is a hard one. But the Kielburgers urge families to read the newspaper together, and to be aware of what is happening in the larger world. They suggest pointing out stories where people are helping other people, showing compassion, and responding to crisis.

9. Volunteer as a family. The desire to help might be sparked by a major crisis, such as the recent earthquake in Haiti, or it might come from an experience closer to home. Together, with your children, work to respond with concrete help and compassion. Make volunteering a regular part of your family's life.

10. Don't preach. As the Kielburgers say: "There's a fine line. If your kids stop listening, you'll know you've crossed it."

The World Needs Your Kid, is available in bookstores and online at Free the Children.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.