One of my favorite quotes says, “Compassion is the radicalism of our time.” by the Dalai Lama. As a teacher, I do believe traditional education is important. Our students need reading and writing skills. They need to be problem solvers, and it would be nice if they all had that investigative desire. But what I would really enjoy, is if a moral education came out of my classroom (and my home for that matter) in the form of compassion. If we can cultivate compassion in our children, we can create a community of citizens who work and grow together. Teaching empathy and compassion is not easy, especially in today’s world of digital communication, but it is vital. If we can teach our children to take care of each other, we can really progress as a species.
Remind Them What They Do and Say Matters
Sometimes I wonder if our children really understand the value of their words and actions. Because they are children, they may feel like their words aren’t heard or respected. By talking to our children each night and engaging in conversation about their day, we can really get to understand what they are thinking. Not only will children feel more empowered and important because parents are listening, but moms and dads can also offer words of encouragement through some of the rougher parts of their day. Conversing about a lunch mishap with a friend or a loss on the soccer field at recess will give parents a window to impress upon them kindness and good sportsmanship. Talking them through a misunderstanding with a friend or encouraging them to welcome the new student to the classroom can help to instill compassion in them. So much can be learned and gained from a conversation with our kids.
Remind Them That There is an Actual Person on the Other End of That Text or Post
Because I have a 7th grader, I am quickly learning that I cannot stop the freight train of social media. Texting, Instagram, and SnapChat have transformed the way our tweens and teens communicate. It is way too easy for them to text or type words they don’t really mean into a phone or a computer because the face-to-face consequences don’t exist. To be a compassionate teen on social media is truly rare. My son has an Instagram account, and I know I cannot control all that he sees and reads. I try to impress upon him the importance of a kind word or a supportive digital personality. DoSomething.org states,
“70% of students report seeing frequent bullying online.”
They recommend starting a new trend of positivity online. This new age of cyber-bullying is quite the prickly one. Kids cannot turn off the torment and what our children type in the heat of the moment stays forever. Explaining the responsibility that comes with an online presence is a conversation that must happen on a frequent basis.
Remind Them How Much They Can Learn from Each Other
Ridicule and misunderstanding comes from a fear of the unknown. If we explain to our children that being open to new information can introduce them to different types of people and expand their knowledge and enjoyment in life, everyone comes out a winner. They will be more likely to open themselves up to dialogue with someone who is different in gender, culture, race, or belief if they see it happening at home and in the classroom. Much of the world’s problems can be solved by good communication because that leads us all to understanding. Once communication begins, our teens may realize that not everyone thinks the same way as they do. Teaching them to disagree respectfully and to listen before responding can help them articulate their own personal feelings on important issues.
In this world of chaos, bullying, enhanced technology, and disconnect, our children can be the change. If we, as adults, explain to them the importance of compassion, empathy, and face to face communication, then we can start to mend the ties that have been severed.