I Can’t Make My Kids Care

I want to teach my kids to be compassionate.

I’ve said it before but I’m not sure I totally agree with this statement anymore, since what I used to mean when I said that was…

I want to make my kids be compassionate.

You see, I’ve come to realize that I can’t MAKE my kids care about something.

Just like I can’t MAKE them like broccoli or MAKE them love that old movie I adore.

I Can't Make My Kids Care

{No, I did not MAKE them hug for this picture! Pure moment of brotherly love for the win!}

This realization was REALLY frustrating to me at first:

I’m the parent, right?! I can’t MAKE them feel love or mercy or compassion for someone else?!

After a few times trying to force them to get on board with charity projects I wanted to do, I have learned to take a different approach to this whole “teach them compassion” thing.

What I CAN do is two-fold:

  • Show them that I care.
  • Give them the tools to jump into action when they DO care!

This has taken a LOT of pressure off of me and actually created more opportunities for the boys to grow in compassion!

So, what does this look like?

Show them that I care.

There is great power in a parent’s example. I remember trying over and over to “teach” Double J {our youngest} to clap and he wanted nothing to do with being forced to do it. Fast forward a few weeks and he notice one of us clapping at something and joined in! He didn’t want to be made to do anything, but he did want to mimic what Daddy and Mommy were doing!

When we decided to sponsor a child through Compassion, I actually didn’t involve the boys in the process of picking a child. At the time, they were still young and the details were not important to them. So I picked a child I felt drawn to – his precious face and March 17th birthday the same year as Big J told me he was ours right away

When Samson’s picture arrived, I told the boys about him and where he lived and tried to get them excited about writing to him. They didn’t “get” it yet. They drew something because I told them to, but I knew their hearts weren’t really in it.

At that point I decided I would keep his picture where we all could see it, pray for him when I prayed for the boys, write letters, and read his letters out loud when they came, but wait for them to gain interest in their own time.

And the boys did start to be interested in him. Big J would be working on his Scripture handwriting sheets and decide he wanted to send it Samson. Little J was making Christmas cards for grandparents and asked if he could make one for Samson, too. Their care and love for Samson didn’t come through forced activities. It developed over time as they saw The Hubby and I caring for him through our prayers and words.

As parents, our example of compassion, mercy, and love for those in need goes much further than anything we could MAKE our children do. It may take longer than you like, but genuine compassion is much better than forced compassion!

Give them the tools to jump into action when they DO care!

Eventually, there will be a cause or person in need that catches your child’s attention. For Big J, it was the children who didn’t have beds or safe places to sleep. When he brought it up, I was ready with the question:

“Would you like to try to help them?”

When he answered yes, I got on board with him and we found a way to do something for those kids!


Keep your ears open for the things your children say that show they are wanting to help someone and be a ready to help them out!

Nickels for Nets flier

If they want to raise money for an organization, help rally friends and family to collect money like we did with Nickels for Nets, but let them do most of the asking, counting, etc. so they hold on to ownership of the project! I made the flier above on the computer, but Big J handed them out and told people what he was raising money for, as well as counting the money himself!

U-NEEKS - Thinking of You - Dweeber- 3 Premium Cards for Kids

If they notice a friend who needs some encouragement, have some cards ready they can use to write their friend a note! Dayspring has these totally awesome U-NEEK cards just for kids that include messages of encouragement, friendship, prayer, love, and more.

Be willing to search for charities or programs that help the people your child is interested in helping!

Let your children know you are willing to commit family resources – such as time and money – to support something about which they feel passionately!

Side note: I do think it is okay to require all family members to participate {with a good attitude} in a cause that one family member feels is important because it fosters the “team” atmosphere of the family, but it is also important to not get frustrated if the other family members don’t get all excited over that one person’s cause!

Taking the “model and equip” approach has produced greater results in the compassion and service area of our children’s hearts than anything we could have ever MADE them do!

What is your experience with kids and compassion? What causes have your children shown interest in? Which of these steps would you like to work on in your home this year?


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  1. oooohhhh, this is so good! i really needed to read this as it’s so important to me and i so want my kids to get on-board, but you are so right that it can’t be forced. they play along with me, but don’t quite have a natural compassion thing yet.

    I’m focusing myself to just “do something” each day and as things come up — hopefully my 6yo and 3yo will get the message along the way and start to feel it too! 🙂

    thanks much for this!

    • You are such a good mama! Keep showing them and they will notice! I’ve definitely seen it in my 6yo and the 4yo is starting to show signs as well! I’ve read that kids experience lots of growth in the areas of care and compassion at the ages of 5-8, and I can say that has been true in our house!

  2. I couldn’t agree more! Love the post!!

  3. I love this! Such wisdom and practical encouragement. Thank you!

  4. Rebekah says:

    My husband and I have been working towards adopting through foster care. We’ve had 4 foster children in our home over the years. We have found that foster children need families BUT families need foster children too. We have learned so much from these precious children who are caught in challenging situations through no fault of their own. When we first became foster parents, someone once said to me ” You have 3 well-adjusted children. Why would you bring someone into your home that might be a bad influence on them?” Answer: 1) God told us to 2) We do have some control over who comes in our home 3)When God calls you to do something, He will take care of your children 4) We are more concerned with how WE will influence the child and not the other way around. In that time, our entire family has been stretched and changed. We have learned many things about the love of God and the children have learned gratitude for what they have, that LOVE means DOING something, that an orphan isn’t just a word on the page in their Bibles but a real child, just like them, that God can use ANYBODY, even children, to accomplish His will, that God’s Word really changes people and is really true, and that we can bring glory to God in simple, everyday tasks, like sharing your toys and home and parents with a child who doesn’t have any of those things.