“He’s always getting in trouble!
He does stupid things and makes our teacher cranky, then the rest of us get into trouble when it isn’t out fault!
It’s not fair.”
It’s easy to regard others by the label they have already been given. The ‘trouble maker’ who had always struggled to tow the line at school – it’s easy to write him off as someone who will always make things difficult.
It’s easy to just tell my girls to ignore him, to make sure they are doing the right thing and not worry about anyone else, but I don’t think that really helps them.
It doesn’t help my girls understand this child, or people in general, or life.
It doesn’t help them look beyond labels, to see real people, to give others a chance.
And in the here and now, in the reality of dealing with my girls who are struggling with a difficult situation, it doesn’t really help them feel better about it either.
And it surely doesn’t help the child, the one who is always getting in trouble, the one with the label.
“Why do you think he does that? Why is he silly all the time?” I ask.
“I dunno… he just… he just… when things are different or hard… he just gets stupid!”
“Do you think maybe it is his way of dealing with hard things? Maybe when he is feeling stressed, or unsure, or upset, or when he finds something difficult he deals with that by acting out?”
“To take the attention off the thing that he is having trouble with… maybe… yes.”
“I know he was unhappy the other day… maybe something is bothering him?”
I don’t ask them to befriend him, or help him, I don’t feel like that is a helpful.
I simply ask them to think again, to try and look for more, to assign positive intent, to try and understand things from his perspective.
“You know most people who are being mean, or silly, or acting out in some way, are struggling with something inside themselves…” I tell my girls
“It doesn’t mean that their behaviour is ok, or that you have to put up with it if it is directly impacting you, but it can help a lot to try and understand why they might be acting that way. It can help you find a good way to deal with it, or even just help it not bother you so much.”
That’s where the discussion ended that day, but we have had many more about how we can try to understand the points of view of others, how we can put ourselves in their situation and instead of our reaction being based on frustration, or fear, or anger, it can be based on understanding, kindness and compassion.
Helping kids learn compassion is one of the most important jobs I have as a parent.
Sometimes I get hung up in reading and maths, or how well they are doing at sport or dancing, and I forget that one thing I really want my children to know is how to be kind, and compassionate. We need to take advantage of these little opportunities as they pop up and help our children develop empathy, and teach them that kindness is important.
How do you help your kids learn compassion?