I do believe that children can be compassionate (although sometimes it's harder with Mommy, lucky us!
). But I firmly believe that we can't just expect this to come about on its own. We probably, as attached parents, teach our kids a lot about compassion by being compassionate to them, but I think there is some other stuff that needs to be happening too. My almost 3 year old dd is pretty compassionate for her age, and I think some of the things I may have done to contribute to this in addition to my AP style are:
- Somewhere between ages 1 and 2, I realized that I didn't have to jump to meet every request anymore. It was hard to get out of that mindset of always meeting her needs immediately when she was an infant, but I realized I would be doing her a disservice if I, for example, abandoned my meal every time she wanted something from upstairs. I figured some of her needs were really "wants" and it would be good for her to learn to respect others' needs, too.
- I've always talked about feelings with her - verbalizing for her when she can't, as in, "Oh, that must be frustrating, you can't get that puzzle piece to fit!" Or just pointing out how people she sees might be feeling. I noticed this was working when, by age 2.5, she started naming the feelings of characters in picture books based on their facial expressions.
- I've always accepted her negative feelings and I try so hard not to give her that awful message that so many of us probably got as kids - that sadness, anger, etc. are unacceptable and should be covered up or talked away with platitudes. I'm currently having a hard time with dh on this one, because he's sort of from that school.
Believe me, it's really nice to see that the things I've been doing are working, because I always do things with a thought in my head (sounds like my mother-in-law's voice a lot, I wonder why?
) that goes, "Are you sure you know what you're doing?"