By Rachel Hoeing

Most of the time, when we do something for others, we do it with no strings attached and we do it without acknowledgement. This is a true act of giving and a true gesture of compassion. But, when it comes to raising a family, we need to make sure our acts are seen, noticed, and replicated … by our children.

One of the main things I hope for my children is that I can raise them to be KIND. I want them to give to others and care for others without expecting anything in return.

I feel that the best way to teach them compassion for others is to allow them to see me showing compassion. There are simple ways to do this each day:

– When interacting with waitresses, clerks, retailers, etc always show kindness and give a smile, even if the person on the receiving end may not return the gesture. Show children that when you treat others with kindness, most of the time the person will soften their mood if it was gruff from the start. If you ever have a sales clerk or waiter who may not be the friendliest, you may say to your children, “I hope they are OK. They seem to be having a bad day.”

– Allow your kids to hear the beginning of a phone conversation that may show compassion. For example, “Hi Amy, I was thinking about you today. I know your dad is still in the hospital and I wanted to see how he was doing.”

– You pass an ambulance on the road. Instead of moaning because you must pull over and waste time, simply state out loud. “Wow, they are going really fast. I hope that everyone’s OK.” I said this the other day without even realizing my kids were listening, and my daughter immediately said, “Mom I am going to say a prayer for them.”

Then there are other acts of kindness and compassion that take more effort and time. It is important for your children to observe these acts and possibly get involved themselves.

– When you take dinner to a friend who has suffered a loss, allow your children to help you make the meal. As you are preparing it, say something like, “Heather has been through a tough time lately since her best friend passed away. I hope this dinner from us will make her day a little easier.”

– While shopping, I will often see something that reminds me of a friend of relative. I will pick it up and say, “Oh, I bet Uncle Bob would love this! Do you think this would be a nice surprise for him?”

– Of course volunteering is a great act of kindness and compassion. For ideas on how you can volunteer, click here. On ways to volunteer with your family, click here. Even if you are volunteering on your own, be sure to point it out to your children and say, “I am excited to help out at the retirement home today. I love making those people smile.”

Lastly, I am still a firm believer in Thank You Notes. When writing them myself, I make sure my children see me doing so and will often say, “That necklace from Sarah was so pretty. I need to make sure she knows how much I appreciated her thinking of me.” I also ask my children to write notes and they are now in the habit of starting a “Thank You Note List” as cards and gifts arrive in the mail for holidays.

Readers, please share your thoughts! What are your favorite ways to teach your children how to be kind and compassionate?