Originally Posted by NellieKatz
He must know that when we bring food to a food bank, that we are on some level doing it because we should, because we know that is what good people do, and it's what needs to be done, and it's what good people try and teach their kids....which is different from some of the other parents I know who are genuinely compassionate toward others including their kids, whose whole lives are completely oriented around this level of caring. (Rather than a life oriented around "shoulds"). Mind you, I am not talking about the OP here. I have no idea what her family is like. I am ONLY talking from my own experience, looking at our own shortcomings, and raising the philosophical question. (it's what I do best!) :-)
I truly believe that if we were naturally kinder, more giving people, our son would be that way too, because kids learn what they live.
It is humbling and saddening to realize the ways in which we've let DS down, but the plus side is realizing it is the first step to changing it.
Whoa.... I think you're being way too hard on yourself. You're setting an impossible, unachievable standard. Even Mother Teresa wasn't that good!
I think you're also "guilty" of assuming that some people don't have the same doubts and struggles that you do. I know some truly compassionate and caring people.You know what? They still get angry at their kids. Their kids still argue and bicker. Sometimes, their kids aren't very compassionate. But, I have no doubt that their children will grow up to be kind, compassionate, caring adults. Why? Because their parents are modeling for them what it means to be kind. And equally important: Their parents are modeling for them how you make amends when you know you haven't been kind.
There's an alternative explanation: Maybe your children are still CHILDREN. Their minds are the minds of children. They are, by their very nature, focused on themselves until they near puberty (when then they focus on themselves in relationship to their social group, which also doesn't always manifest itself in kindness).
Compassion and kindness aren't something you 'get' overnight or that you 'get' when you're young because your parents are compassionate to the core. You get it because you see it modeled, you see it practiced, when you screw up and aren't kind, the adults in your life help you see things from another person's perspective and help you make amends if you can. You practice these skills many times. You see your parents messing up and then doing it right. Your parents talk sometimes about their struggles to do the right thing. You hear your parents discussing how much money or time they can afford to give to a cause. You see your parents and the other adults in your community stepping up and serving. Your parents bring you along to serve. Other people in your community help you serve. People serve you when you are in need of help. People talk with you about the 'big' issues -- discrimination, poverty, political ideas, facts, opinions, etc. etc. (You're right NellieKatz that lectures don't do any good. But a good adult-adult discussion about peace with your son overhearing you just might lead him to take in more than you think.)
OP: your daughter is FIVE. At this age, I found it helpful to first hear my daughter's side of the story. She had to get all the emotion out. Then, and only then, could I ask questions about what she thought the other kids were thinking/doing. We would work through, together, the idea of different perspectives. Then we'd get up the next day and do it all over again. Sometimes play acting scenes with stuffed animals helped. Hearing stories of times I wasn't kind, or when people weren't kind to me also helped. Kids this age need a lot of practice seeing things from another child's perspective. They're very concrete thinkers.
At the same time, realize that the other kids don't exactly have a neutral perspective. They're also learning to be part of a social group and what the social rules are. They need to learn to work out their differences with your daughter.
Finally, an example from my daughter: Deep down, I know that our daughter is kind and compassionate. She has an incredibly strong sense of justice (you should hear her rant on social justice topics!) She sends her friends letters. When we're out, if we buy a treat, she immediately thinks to buy some for her brother. She's very empathetic and very sensitive to my moods. When I was going through a bout of depression this fall, she wrote me the absolutely sweetest note.
But, you know what? She's often not kind. When I was at her school last year (when she was in 1st grade), one of the kids came over to me and said in very worried tone: "You need to tell M to quit being mean to me." I never could quite get out of this little girl what dd did to be mean to her, but it was clearly an on-going problem. The truth is, dd does not suffer fools gladly and she shows that through her expressions and in her words. She also doesn't filter her thoughts very well yet. (Her "thank you" note that she wrote in class to her older brother read: "Dear T, thank you for being nice to me some of the time (even though I hate you sometimes)." Um....not very kind.
Dd is also very tight with her money. She's saved up 50+ dollars from birthday/Christmas money. Yet, when we had a project at church where we were buying school supplies for school kits for Lutheran World Relief, dd absolutely refused to part with any of "her" money. She was grudgingly willing to earn money toward the project, but no way was she going to give money. That's not very caring.
She fights with her brother. She has a tendency to blame other people when things go wrong. She stomps around the house when she's mad. Even at 7, she sometimes whacks her brother. Not the sort of mature behavior I'd like to see.
She's 7. She's a work in progress. I don't despair (most days). I'm hopeful that someday, with the help of her parents (us), her extended family, our church community and the larger community that she will eventually become a caring, helpful adult. Just don't expect it consistently now.