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."
Learning to Appreciate Diversity Through Play
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."
Pretend Play: Caring for Baby
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
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Activity Finder: Learn With Your Four-Year-Old
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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.
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Martha Speaks Word Spinner
Help your child build storytelling and oral vocabulary skills while playing six interactive mini-games with the whole family.
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