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Raising a Compassionate Child

Posted by Anne Mickelson on

Dear parent,

There are so many parenting books out there – more than we could ever read in a lifetime, right? That is why I have made it my personal mission to read as many as I can and pass along the nuggets of wisdom I think are worth sharing. This month’s nugget of wisdom is from a book that is more of a memoir than it is explicitly a parenting book.  In one of the chapters, author Glennon Doyle Melton writes a letter to her third grade son.  This letter was so captivating to me, I decided to share it with you as this month’s parenting resource.  

This is from the book Carry On Warrior: thoughts on life unarmed by Glennon Doyle Melton.  I, along with Mill City, certainly do not endorse all the views and opinions expressed in this book.  But this one particular concept of raising a compassionate child is too good not to share.  Perhaps after reading this, you’ll want to write a similar letter to your own child.

Raising a Compassionate Child

Brave is a decision.


Dear Chase,

Tomorrow is a big day – your first day of third grade.  Wow!  When I was in third grade, there was a little boy in my class named Adam.  

Adam looked a little different.  He wore funny clothes.  And sometimes he even smelled strange.  Adam didn’t smile.  He hung his head low and he never looked at anyone at all.  Adam never did his homework.  I don’t think his parents reminded him like yours do.  The other kids teased Adam often.  Whenever they did, his head hung lower and lower and lower.  I never teased him.  But I never told the other kids to stop either.  

I never talked to Adam.  Not once.  I never invited him to sit next to me at lunch or to play with me at recess.  Instead, he sat and played by himself.  He must have been very lonely.  I still think about Adam.  I wonder if Adam remembers me.  Probably not.  I bet if I’d asked him to play just once, he’d still remember me.

I think that God puts people in our lives as gifts to us.  The children in your class this year – they are some of God’s gifts to you.  So please treat each one like a gift from God.  Every single one.  

Baby, if you see a child being left out or hurt or teased, part of your heart will hurt a little.  Your daddy and I want you to trust that heartache.  Your whole life we want you to notice and trust your heartache.  That heartache is called compassion.  And it is God’s signal to you to do something.  It is God saying, “Chase, wake up.  One of My babies is hurting.  Do something to help.”  

Whenever you feel compassion, be thrilled!  It means God is speaking to you and that is magic.  It means He trusts you and needs you.  Sometimes the magic of compassion will make you step into the middle of a bad situation right away.  Compassion might lead you to tell a teaser to stop it, and then ask the teased kid to play.  You might invite a left-out kid to sit next to you at lunch.  You might choose a kid for your team first who usually gets chosen last.  These things will be hard to do, but you can do hard things.

Sometimes you will feel compassion but you won’t step in right away.  That’s okay too.  You might choose instead to tell your teacher and then to tell us.  We are on your team.  We are on your whole class’s team.  Asking for help for someone who is hurting is not tattling.  It is doing the right thing.  If someone in your class needs help, please tell me, baby.  We will make a plan to help together.

When God speaks to you by making your heart hurt for another, by giving you compassion, just do something.  Please do not ignore God whispering to you.  I so wish I had not ignored God when He spoke to me about Adam.  I remember Him trying.  I remember feeling compassion.  But I chose fear over compassion.  I wish I hadn’t.  Adam could have used a friend, and I could have too.

Chase, we do not care if you are the smartest, or fastest, or coolest, or funniest.  There will be lots of contests at school.  And we don’t care if you win a single one of them.  We don’t care if you get straight A’s.  We don’t care if the girls think you’re cute, or whether you’re picked first or last for kickball at recess.  We don’t care if you’re your teacher’s favorite or not.  We don’t care if you have the best clothes, the most trading cards, or the coolest gadgets.  We just don’t care. 

We don’t send you to school to become the best at anything at all.  We already love you as much as we possibly could.  You do not need to earn our love or pride.  And you can’t lose it.  That’s done.  

We send you to school to practice being brave and kind.  Kind people are brave people.  Brave is not something you should wait to feel.  Brave is a decision.  It is a decision that compassion is more important than fear, than fitting in, than following the crowd.  Trust me, baby, it is.  It is more important.  Don’t try to be the best this year, honey.  Just be grateful and kind and brave.  That’s all you ever need to be.

Take care of those classmates of yours, and your teacher too.  You belong to each other.  You are one lucky boy with all of these new gifts to unwrap this year.  I love you so much that my heart might explode.  Enjoy and cherish your gift.  And thank you for being my favorite gift of all time.  Love, Mama


Purchase your own copy of this book, or listen to the audio book HERE


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