None of us will parent perfectly, so let’s take that pressure right off our shoulders. But in parenting, we are always teaching our children—whether we model life indirectly (as they watch and then model after us) or teach directly (“This is how we do it”). We all desire to teach our children things that will make them better siblings, friends, and someday, adults.

But how do we raise compassionate kids?

As parents, we wish we could share with you the formula we used for our two daughters to grow up to be 30-something, lovely, compassionate women. But the formula wasn’t ours, it was God’s. God gave them an older brother (and He gave us a wonderful son!) with special needs.

At age 12, our oldest daughter told us that she would want to care for her brother when she grew up and we weren’t here any longer. We’re certain our own thoughts at that age would never have been in that direction—such maturity and compassion this young lady had. Our younger daughter eased more into that way of thinking … probably because she was the one he picked on most over the years! Yet, as she grew up, she and her older sister were always looking after him and paying attention to how others treated not only him, but others like him.

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Compassionate kids are kids who see it modeled

We’d love to think we had steps 1-2-3 on how to raise compassionate kids, but the truth is we hope they saw us show it not only to our family, but to others in our lives.

Our goals were to help others by:

  • Offering help when someone needed it.
  • Showing care in public, as well as in private moments.
  • Providing meals when it could ease someone’s day.
  • Calling when a need was noticed and asking how it might be filled by us.
  • Coming alongside others in real ways: the hospital, at appointments, etc.
  • Helping others learn more about special needs and how to show compassion by learning and understanding better.

We remember a time one of the girls asked why we were taking a meal to an adult friend who had just lost her husband in a tragic death.

“Why do you think we’re doing this?” we asked.  

Our 5-year-old daughter answered, “Because we want to show her we care and we’re here for her.”

We’re all learning

We’ll all make mistakes along our parenting way, but when we purpose to teach directly and model indirectly, we have a better chance of teaching things like compassion and other character traits. If we’re all in a learning mode (parents and children), we’ll all have the opportunity to exhibit what we’ve practiced for others to learn from.

Remember, people are observing. As you consider what others are observing about what you’re teaching your children, what do you think they see? Make changes if needed, or stay the course and watch for the results down the road.

Copyright © 2023 Joe and Cindi Ferrini. All rights reserved.

Dr. Joe and Cindi Ferrini share their newest book: Love All-Ways: Embracing Marriage Together on the Special Needs Journey (order at They are authors, speakers, and bloggers for several blogging sites on marriage, family, and special needs. They spoke nationally for FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember marriage getaway for 20 years, authored Unexpected Journey – When Special Needs Change our Course, and have been interviewed on Focus on the Family, FamilyLife Today, Janet Parshall at “In the Market”, Chris Brooks of “Equipped” and various other radio and television venues. Connect with them at: and via social media at:,, and