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Smart, yet kind. How can I help my children to be capable, yet compassionate?

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Across all cultures and societies, the goals of parenting are diverse, but there are three themes that are common. Parents aim to make sure their children are safe and healthy, to make children ready for their future adult lives, and to pass on their values. The way parents interact with their children determine the quality of their parent-child relationship and the outcomes that children achieve.


Many parents teach their children a variety of skills in order to achieve these goals. And surveys show that the qualities of being capable and being compassionate are among these.


Compassion in children 


Compassion in children can be seen as kindness in action. They may give you a hug, help you with the chores or say encouraging and sweet words when they see a family member or a friend hurt or upset. We may also be surprised to hear that they want to help someone in the community when they hear of their need! 


A capable mind at a young age


Intelligence matters. Parents want their children to develop a curious and well-disciplined mind. Surely, a mind that is well-developed and capable of learning is an asset. It will bolster a child’s chances of success in school, at work and even in relationships.


Compassion and smarts in small daily doses


There is no one-size-fits all  formula that can produce a perfect person and a perfectly kind and intelligent child. But we can look at what research has found to be elements of raising these children. 



  • Parents engage with their children in a balanced way. Research has found that when children are allowed to take the lead in easy or fairly difficult tasks, they develop their cognitive and emotional skills more. According to this Stanford University research, when parents become too overbearing or controlling, children have a harder time regulating their feelings and solving problems.Part of engagement is nurturing their creativity, no matter how old they are. The brain feeds on information, knowledge, and experiences in order to grow. Allow your children to interact with the world, form meaning, and engage in challenges.

  • Parents allow their children to do house chores. They say that parents are not raising children, but they are raising adults. When children are allowed to participate in house chores, they learn the importance of contributing to the good of the whole group. They develop their sense of compassion for people who are struggling, because they understand how to work. 

  • Parents teach their children social skills early in life. 700 respondents who were children ranging from kindergarten to 25 years old from across the United States were studied in a span of 20 years in order to find a link between their social skills and their level of success as adults. The researchers found that when these children learned social skills at an early age, they are more likely to be compassionate to others, to earn a college degree and engage in full time employment than children who were not taught social skills.

  • Parents prioritized developing a loving relationship with their children. Children’s brains are highly capable of learning through modeling, and when parents are consistent in their warmth, care, kindness and patience, children model these traits. 

  • Parents read to their children. Parents who start teaching their children to love how to read and expose children to books that show the values of compassion and empathy see their kids reflect these values in real life. Studies have shown that as children listen to these stories, they have the capacity to “live through the lives of the characters” and put themselves in their shoes. They encounter different types of personalities and form their empathetic skills while reading or listening to you read. 

These things may not seem very significant on their own, but by building a habit of teaching them in small doses everyday will bear much fruit. Kindness and intelligence will guide your children as they grow to adulthood. 

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Smart, yet kind. How can I help my children to be capable, yet compassionate?
Brandon Resasco

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