Raising Compassionate, Courageous
Children In A Violent World

 ©Janice Cohn, D.S.W., A.C.S.W.

 

Is the world too dangerous to encourage children to be caring and trusting of others?

Are compassionate children at a disadvantage in a competitive, violent society?

How can children learn moral courage when public role models (including the President of the United States) often turn out to have feet of clay?

 

Overview

Often, in our efforts to protect children and keep them safe in a dangerous, unpredictable world, we send a message that they need to be wary and suspicious

of others–that being trusting and giving with people they don’t know can be risky.  Yet at the same time we want and expect children to be kind, empathetic and caring.  This kind of double message is confusing at best.  And, at worst, it ends up preventing rather than promoting the development of compassion. 

This poses a serious problem because the research shows that children who don’t feel compassion towards others or themselves feel more “disconnected,” and are more at risk of depression and violent behavior than those children who are genuinely compassionate.  In dramatic contrast, compassionate children perform better academically and socially, have a higher sense of self-esteem, and are at considerably less risk for depression.  They are also, predictably, much more likely to help others and stand up for their own beliefs.

 

How Do Children Develop Compassion?

  • It is a learned trait, which can (and should) be nurtured from the time children are very young.
     
  • It is a trait that is crucially influenced by the important adults in children’s lives–both at home and at school.

 

What specifically can parents (and other caring adults) do to foster the development of empathy despite the violence which permeates our society?

Adults play a crucial role in fostering compassion and empathy in children.  They influence children (positively and negatively) by the choices they make in: 

  • How they discipline their children
     

  • How they use “teachable moments” 
     

  • How they try to keep children safe in a dangerous, unfair world 
     

  • The lessons they teach children through their own actions 
     

  • How they try to develop children’s self-esteem 
     

  • The kinds of expectations they set for  children (and themselves) 
     

  • The kinds of personal and family stories they share with children

 

The Presentation's Format

The material I presented is based upon exciting new research findings, clinical data and my 30 years’ experience as a psychotherapist.  I translate and synthesize this information into an engaging, easily understandable format, which people find to be genuinely helpful. 

My presentation integrates the following: 

  • True stories and anecdotes exemplifying the points covered in the presentation
      

  • An overview of a number of important–and sometimes surprising–research findings 
     

  • Specific, concrete suggestions and guidelines for audience participants

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