Teaching kids to be compassionate…
I think of myself as a fairly compassionate person. I have my moments (doesn’t everyone?), but for the most part this is true. I’m not embarking on a defense of my own behavior here. I’m looking through a more insightful lens. I’m not sure my daughters are learning from my good example.
This past weekend, my 2-year old, laughing maniacally, tossed her beloved baby doll down a flight of stairs. Meanwhile, my 4-year old discovered a bug in the house and eagerly summoned me to “smash it.”
I know it’s just a doll (a perfect venue for exploring aggressive fantasies), and just a bug (which I did smash, gladly). But I was still surprised by the obvious glee exhibited in both situations. I started to have that briefest feeling of panic, an icy fear that I’m not successfully raising responsible citizens-to-be. But moments later, my toddler retrieved her baby doll with a sorrowful expression and hugged her tightly, saying “aww, baby crying.”
And later that day, my 4-year old asked me suspiciously whether people eat animals. I confirmed this, and she blanched. “I don’t eat animals,” she informed me. I responded, “Do you eat chicken?” This inquiry was met with horrified silence. In three subsequent opportunities, I haven’t seen her touch her chicken. I think I’ll wait to explain the origins of beef (apologies to the vegetarians out there).
So maybe compassion just comes in installments, and is better understood in contrast to the alternative. And I should probably just be glad that they’re experimenting with dolls and bugs and not each other.