By Contributing Author Beth Sanborn of Far From Camelot
“Can children be taught to have compassion?” Many years ago I asked my friend this question after a particularly grueling night of babysitting when I used to take odd jobs to supplement my income while I was single. I had been sitting for a boy about 4 years old and it was clear from the start that he thought only of himself. He proved me right when I cut my finger while slicing apples for his snack. He threw a fit when I stopped cutting the apples to dress my wound. He did not even try to help me when I was searching the house for bandages.
When I told my friend of my experience, her opinion was that compassion is something you are born with, or in this boy’s case, not born with. This was not something I wanted to hear as I wanted a family of my own. I wanted a child that cared about other people and their plights. Years later, after I had my son, I remembered this conversation with my friend. I hoped she was not right.
A few weeks ago while out walking our dog, I slipped and fell on my right leg. I hobbled home with a gash on my foot, a scrape on my knee, and a leg that felt it would give out any moment. Riley was on his tricycle and he quickly turned around and did not dawdle getting back to the house. He did not realize what had happened until I sat down in the bathroom to apply bandages. Immediately he wanted to know if I was alright. Then he helped open up the band aids for me while I cleaned the wounds. I also got my boo boos kissed. My little boy then went to the freezer to get out a fudgesicle for me (and one for him!) to, in his words, make me feel better!
I respectfully disagree with my friend’s opinion! You see, I kiss Riley’s boo boos. And I give him ice cream treats to make him feel better. I think compassion and empathy can be taught to children and they will reiterate those kind actions. Riley remembered how I have comforted him in the past and he comforted me in the same manner.
Children have the capacity to learn right away. As parents, we have the opportunity to teach our children at the very start to be kind and considerate. Boys are always at a greater risk than girls which is why we deserve to give them more attention when it comes to teaching empathy. Riley is a rough and tumble boy but he can also be gentle and sincere. Showing him there are some times to step in and express love can help with future bullies he may encounter. It may even shape him into a man who decides helping others is his calling in life.
I think back to that boy I sat for and hope he is receiving the love he denied me that night. But nothing can compare to the compassionate son I am raising today!
About the Author: Daughter, wife and stay-at-home mother to a 2 year old little boy. In my 3rd decade, balance and happiness have finally come into my life with a little help from my parents and a lot of help from my faith. I have been writing all my life but new to publishing. My first gig was contributing to a weekly mom’s advice column in a local online paper. I’m finding that blogging and all that the online community entails is where I need to be. Life has changed me but my passions have stayed the same; The South is my conditioning, history is what keeps my attention and Spring Training is what gets me through the winter. Visit her blog Far From Camelot
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