We cruised down the street to our favorite worship song. My kids belted out the lyrics as we headed to school. As our vehicle stopped at a traffic light, an image caught our attention. Just a few feet away stood a young man holding a cardboard sign. From the backseat, my son asked what the man was doing. My children and I exchanged meaningful dialogue as I took the opportunity to expose them to the hurting world in which we live.
As parents, we tend to guard our children from the heartache of this world. Yet, there comes a time when we need to gently reveal the realities of our fallen world to them. Not all people experience a life like theirs.
I want my kids to feel uncomfortable with this reality.
I long for them to respond in love. To make a difference in every way they can. My prayer is that they will walk out a life of faith, love, and purpose as boldly as they sing about it.
How To Build a Heart of Compassion in Our Children
He must become greater; I must become less. ~John 3:30
When we allow Christ to become greater in our hearts, we will feel His heartbeat for people on a deeper level. He will fill us with an abundance of love for the purpose of pouring it out. What would the world look like if we raised our children to live and love like Jesus? To set aside our own selfish desires so that we can meet the needs of others?
As we raise godly kids, we must teach them to have compassion for others. Being a compassionate person is simply having concern for the misfortune of another person. Raising compassionate kids is not as difficult as it may seem. Here are a few practical tips.
Initiate Ongoing Dialogue
One very helpful way to build compassion in our children is through intentional dialogue. Open their eyes to what’s happening around them simply by talking about it. Engage their hearts by asking open-ended questions. Have them imagine what life is like for people with less-fortunate circumstances.
Back to the example of the homeless man at the traffic light. My kids wanted to know why he was homeless. We didn’t make assumptions. Rather, we talked about possible factors that could contribute to a person becoming homeless. I asked them to imagine themselves in this person’s circumstance. How would you feel if you didn’t have a home to go to, especially on cold nights? How would you feel if you didn’t know where your next meal would come from? These questions paved the way for a more meaningful conversation to occur. I could see their concern growing for individuals facing homelessness.
As you dialogue, encourage your children to not think of themselves better than another person due to circumstantial differences. Instead, let’s teach our children to see each person as God’s creation. A person whom He loves very much. When we see people in this manner, our hearts respond with concern for the well-being of the individual.
Make It Personal and Relatable
During my childhood, my mom told me countless times, “Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.” To this very day, I can hear her words spurring me on. She taught me to think less of myself. To put others first. She urged me to try and understand what a person is going through. Her words shaped me significantly. She developed a heart of compassion inside of me.
To help your kids do this, pull from personal experiences your children can relate to. Ask them to consider how past challenges made them feel. Encourage them to relate it back to what another person may be thinking or feeling due to a similar situation.
Other times, your children may have no previous context to compare it to. Even so, I encourage you to talk openly about the need before them. Help them gain insight and understanding of what another person is going through.
Answer Their Questions
As you exchange ongoing dialogue with your children, it’s likely they will have plenty of questions. Allow them to ask as many as they’d like. Be sensitive to what they’re asking. And don’t rush this part of the process. Kids naturally ask questions as they explore something new. Be patient and guide them lovingly. They are looking to you as their trusted source.
Building compassion in our children unlocks a new world to them. A world where they see the needs of others. They begin looking beyond themselves. They can feel what someone is experiencing and gain a better understanding of how God can use them to make an impact.
Discover Ways To Make a Difference as a Family
God’s love compels us to respond. As compassion builds, move your family from conversation to action. The Lord has resourced your family in different ways so you can be a blessing to others. Begin by praying as a family. Ask the Lord to guide you as you seek ways to use your resources (finances, time, skills, etc) to make a difference in the lives of others.
Has the Lord placed a certain people group or organization on your heart? Is there someone directly in your path you can reach out to? Look for ways to get involved by partnering with your church or community agencies. Perhaps, your church is hosting a community outreach or project. Maybe there’s a local agency whose mission resonates with your family. Sign your family up! Large organizations provide many opportunities for families to volunteer. They already have the logistics figured out. They just need extra hands (that’s you!) to come alongside of them to make it happen.
Let’s also remember the daily impact our families can make. God gives us opportunities every single day to show His love in very practical ways. Knowing this, we must train our children to live with eyes wide open. Teach them to see the needs around them. Show them how they can respond. It’s so simple! Here are a few examples:
- Instruct your kids to look people in the eyes with a warm smile and friendly greeting.
- Encourage them to hold the door open for another person.
- Allow your children to carry in groceries for your elderly neighbor who could use a helping hand.
Are you wanting to get your kids to see the needs around them? Would you like to see them contribute more? Check out the following article: One Question That Changed How My Kids Contribute
Making a difference happens not just in the larger, more obvious ways, but in the small, every day moments as well. Let’s show our children that their contributions can make a lasting impact. As you build compassion in your children, make sure to give them opportunities to respond.
Pray For Compassion
God loves to see every generation serve Him. He delights in family units coming together to make a difference. Be intentional about building compassion in your kids. Make a commitment to get your family involved in impacting lives.
And don’t forget the most important aspect to building compassion: Pray over your family!
As you pray over your children, ask God to grow an unquenchable passion inside of them to reach others. Pray for your children to experience God’s love in a way that will move them towards action. May they respond with compassion and be used by God to impact this world.
Would you like specific prayer points on this? Simply enter your name and email address below to receive a free printable PDF with specific prayers you can pray as you build compassion in your children.