Parenting is hard. It has always been hard, and rightly so because raising children is a huge achievement. It’s even harder if we read a bunch of parenting books that often present an endless list of positive qualities our children should espouse. All these suggestions and guidelines can send our thoughts into chaos, trying to figure out how all those qualities can be nurtured into our parenting styles. That puts a lot of pressure on parents and children if a missing quality is considered a drawback. It’s natural to feel that way, I suppose, and every parent has the right to raise their children as they wish. My opinion, in this case, is that doing the best we can is always good enough.
As a parent, I want to impart as many hard and soft skills to my kids as possible. Because I’m a personal finance blogger, financial skills are definitely part of the hard skills target list, and when it comes to soft skills, the list of desirable characteristics which I want my children to adopt is pretty long too. However, if I had to choose one, I would choose compassion. This is because, in itself, compassion is a desirable personality trait and can help nurture other positive attributes.
Allow me to explain…
Humans are social animals
Let’s look at it at a macro level first and acknowledge the fact that humans are social animals. I’m not the only one who thinks that:
Solitude, isolation, are painful things and beyond human endurance. Jules Verne
Sure, some people may enjoy extreme levels of privacy and personal space, but the fact is mankind as a whole cannot exist if every individual were to feel that way. For mankind to thrive and progress in an environment of peace, empathy is vital, and without compassion, empathy is mighty difficult to practice.
Empathy enables us to understand the reason behind someone else’s behavior, which leads to:
- Better conflict resolution – the chances of getting offended or upset are minimized.
- Better problem solving – we can think of better solutions for other people’s predicaments if we understand their unique situation.
These behaviors have partially contributed to the progress of mankind as different tribes, cultures, and nations learned to overcome cultural differences and solve large-scale economic and social problems.
Now I’ll talk a bit about why I want my children, in particular, to be compassionate individuals. I feel it will help them in several ways.
Self-compassion and constructive criticism
I want my kids to be kind to themselves and love themselves. Life is challenging and it’s impossible to sail through without making a few mistakes and blunders along the way. It’s important to recognize our mistakes and question our behavior to prevent further repetition. But it’s not a good idea to berate ourselves endlessly because it’s a sign we have not forgiven ourselves for our faults and mistakes, and that can be spiritually and emotionally paralyzing.
By properly exercising compassion, we can learn our lessons and love ourselves enough to make amends, forgive our past behavior, and continue life as more mature individuals.
Self-compassion and success
“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.” Suzy Kassem
I want my children to big fans of themselves, without, of course, being narcissistic. Compassion can help them achieve that because it teaches us to believe in ourselves.
It’s human nature to second guess oneself and that is rather unfortunate because it creates an obstacle in one’s path to success. I will always tell my kids to believe in themselves, that they have the power to do anything they want to do and be anything they want to be…
Self-compassion something we owe to ourselves – to our past self and future self.
Compassion and sibling rivalry
It really is a pity to see two siblings grow up and grow apart because of conflicts, both minor and major. Baz Luhrmann explains why:
“Be nice to your siblings; they are the best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.” Sunscreen by Baz Luhrmann
A little compassion may go a long way in averting crises that end relationships among family members, and if a crisis is already in progress, kindness, empathy, tolerance, and benevolence can help end it.
Compassion and social citizenship
Compassion encourages us to help others because we understand and feel their perspective of problems. When it comes to lending a hand, it’s as important to help your peers as it is to be charitable towards the destitute. Whether you’re helping a friend with a domestic issue, or a colleague with a work-related problem or buying a homeless person 2 meals a day, your compassion will leave you feeling fulfilled and satisfied. Of course, the added benefit is that you’ll be well-appreciated by those you help, and as a bonus, ‘What goes around comes around.’
There are indeed multiple ways to pursue happiness, and one of those paths involves being of service to others when others are in need. Philanthropy does wonders for the soul because helping others gives us a feeling of great achievement and satisfaction. Why is that? Probably because we’re social animals!
“You cannot mandate philanthropy. It has to come from within, and when it does, it is deeply satisfying.” Azim Premji
How I try to teach compassion
When I’m out with my kids, I sometimes point to a homeless person or a low-wage earner and explain to my children some of the problems that person may be facing, such as a hungry kid at home or worn-out clothes that don’t keep the person warm or cool enough. In contrast, I emphasize that they (my kids) are fortunate enough to enjoy these luxuries. I may sometimes go a step further and hand my kids a bit of money to give to that person (in my presence) and simply walk away. I feel this will encourage my children to be compassionate towards the poor and compel them to be charitable in their own way.
Compassion in adulthood
I don’t know what my children’s professional careers will be or whether they will choose to be parents, but I do know if they practice compassion, they will find a way to thrive in these areas.
- Compassion in the business environment can lead to good relationships with colleagues and can help establish social businesses with a double bottom line. Think Grameen Bank.
- Compassion is vital for effective parenting as well and that’s plain logic so I’ll skip the explanation.
Of course, this isn’t the only trait that guarantees a wholesome life for my children because there are plenty of other attributes that play their part. However, this is one trait, among a list of many, that I am actively trying to nurture them over time.