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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Raising Children Who Think of Others

One of the best parts of parenting, in my opinion, is teaching our children to think of others.  We brainstorm together about how they might bring joy to an elderly friend or relative, who enjoys what, or perhaps what a simple note or drawing might mean to someone having a rough day.

Generally, I am left out of the picture, since I am the one coordinating these additional acts of kindness.

Every once in a while, the children consider moi.  It makes it more special when they are not coached.  It might be a cup of tea, or remembering an item that I would have forgotten or left behind, or bringing me a flower from our garden.

The other day, Sashenka came to me with her handful of posies at the back door.  They were so tiny and petite, just like her, that I didn’t even have a bud vase handy to accommodate them.  Rushed for time, I laid them to luxuriate in a gravy boat, as though they were reclining in a clawfoot tub.  They seemed happy, as did I, and as did Sashenka.

Are you sensing the chain reaction of kindness here?

Quite separately, Petya gathered an iris and some roses from our pergola.  These were the kinds of roses that were not all that spectacular to look at, but carried the fragrance of long ago, those old garden roses of the rambling type.  (Sorry, I’m no horticulturist, particularly considering that there are now 16,000 different identified roses.)  The perfume was enough to send a million old ladies into rapturous bliss, and now I know why our doggies love to meander through the backyard, when I thought all along it was to patrol the perimeter and keep us safe from wayward squirrels.

Our kids came home with no empathy.  They would either shrug their shoulders indifferently when another was hurt, or in the worse case scenario, laugh at their misfortune.  I was horrified.  We role-played over and over as I taught them how others might feel.

My conclusion?  Empathy can be taught.  Kindness can be taught.  What surprises me is that so few parents take the time to try.  (And believe me, I know all about trying, and the concept not yet taking hold….)

We plan special little surprises for their father, not just on Father’s Day, but all year round, because he’s a great guy who is totally invested in them.  I like to show them the joy that spreads over a face when someone makes an effort just for them.  For no good reason.  Just because.

And sometimes those posies have a way of sneaking into your own pocket, tucked there by a tiny hand that then slips into yours.



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4 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar Judy says:

    I love this post! Our youngest was 4.5 when we brought him home from Russia, and he lacked empathy – BIG TIME. Two and a half years later he’s made strides, but we’re still working on it. It’s clear these children learned from the get-go, that the only one looking out for them WAS them, and that they needed to take care of themselves, since nobody else would. Sad really! But, time, patience, and nurturing are all paying off!

    • avatar admin says:

      It’s a whole different mindset, isn’t it? I can’t imagine not having anyone to CARE. At all. Ever. These kids deserve to be cherished, but in the beginning, when they ARE loved, it doesn’t feel right to them. *Sigh.* It takes time and constant repetition. Brainwashing and ice cream help, too. 🙂

  2. avatar Sybil says:

    Oh how I remember teaching empathy. I shudder at remembering my lovely daughter laughing at misfortune. There was one event that told me she with our guidance, she could get into the right mindset regarding reacting appropriately at misfortunes. That was the day we went to the cemetery for the first time. She had been home several months at least and I wanted to go to my parents gravesite. I brought flowers. She asked if she could put them in the vases at the headstones. I said yes and just as she was about to put the flowers in the vases, she kissed the flowers. I still get tears over that.

    • avatar admin says:

      Oh my, how beautiful. I remember going to my mom’s grave with our first son (he never met her, they would have gotten along so well). We also found the graves of my grandparents as the sun was setting, and when he read, “Born: Russia” it seemed so surreal….

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