Compassion means we care about others, treat them with kindness, and feel a strong desire to help people in need. Compassion is empathy in action. For a four-year-old, compassion might look like giving a hug, making a card, or saying something kind to help a sad friend or family member. Noticing someone else’s distress and wanting to respond is the foundation of compassion.
Character How to Raise Your Four-Year-Old to Treat Others With Compassion
Small but powerful ways to help build your child's compassion for others:
Talk Through Discomfort
Children are sometimes wary when they encounter people who look, sound or behave differently than those in their immediate circle. And young kids sometimes ask questions or make statements that parents find awkward or embarrassing, such as "Why is she in a wheelchair?" "How come he talks like that?" or "That's a funny-looking outfit!"
"Don't come down hard on your kid" for sharing these reactions, says Harvard psychologist Richard Weissbourd. Instead, listen empathetically and talk through their questions. Ultimately, he adds, "the best way to assuage children's fears is to engage [those we meet] in a very normal way." In other words, children take their cues from adult reactions. In the "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" episode "Daniel's New Friend, " Daniel has lots of questions when he meets Chrissie, who uses braces to help her walk. The episode's "strategy song" provides simple language parents can use to help children: "In some ways we are different; in so many ways, we are the same."
We Are All the Same, We Are All Different
Exploring similarities and differences through a game can help children learn to appreciate each other's unique attributes.Do This Activity
Encourage Their Kind Impulses
Use descriptive praise when you see your child reaching out to someone else with compassion. This reinforces their impulse to act with compassion. This might sound like:
- "I was sad and you gave me a hug. That hug helped me feel better. Thank you for being so kind."
- "You shared your toy trucks at the playground. That was kind and made your friend feel happy inside."
Young children are often interested in babies. Have your child learn more about caring for an infant by role-playing with a doll or stuffed animal.Do This Activity
Build Good Character Skills with Daniel Tiger
Through imagination, creativity and music, Daniel and his friends learn the key skills necessary for school and for life, using strategies grounded in the teachings of Mister Rogers.Find Activities
Activity Finder: Learn With Your Four-Year-Old
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Daniel Tiger is learning about morning and bedtime routines! In this app, your child can play and practice brushing teeth, listening to a story and song, getting dressed and eating breakfast with Daniel.
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Telly's Shape Garden
Telly wants to create a shape garden. In this game, your child can practice shape recognition skills and learn about some attributes of squares, triangles, and ovals.