Sometimes, being kind hearted can bite you in the butt, you know. I’m not advocating to not be kind. But just be aware that sometimes, you get more than the satisfaction of having helped a cause. You get a nagging child who won’t let you be until you surrender.

I know the feeling too well because when I was a teenager, I was tasked with walking my dog in the evening. I used to live in a town, and before going to bed, my last job was to drag my old dog for a stroll. More often than not, I wouldn’t come back for a long time. So my worried father would rush outside, looking for me. I was never far, just down the road, standing outside of the building where homeless guys came to hang around. I’d be there with them, chatting. As soon as I’d spot my dad, I would ask him if they could come and sleep at home. Invariably, my dad would smile, and say, “Maybe not tonight.” Then he would lecture me about how we couldn’t invite strangers that we meet in the street to come and stay at our home. I really couldn’t see why not.

As history has a funny way of repeating itself, the other day, I took my three kids to give a helping hand to charitable organizations that had conglomerated together for the day. My daughter wrote Valentine Cards for veterans. (So if you got something with Elsa on it, you know where it came from.) My sons decided to make toys for sheltered animals. Awww, so sweet. I helped them make play balls for cats, and tug toy thingies for dogs. After a few hours, it was time to wrap up. I was looking for one of my sons, and spotted him talking with the lady from the animal shelter.

As soon as he saw me approaching, he started, “Mom, the lady says that if I really want to help animals, the best thing to do is to adopt them. I think we should. I really want to help.”

  • Me:  “No.”
  • My son:  “Oh come on, Mom. It would be such a nice thing to do.”
  • Me:  “Not a chance in the world. Absolutely not. No way. Never. Is that clear?”

The shelter lady was a bit taken aback by my dry, stroppy tone so she volunteered to help reach a compromise, “Well, maybe if you don’t want to adopt, you could be a foster family for some of our animals. That would be helpful as well.”

Normally, I am all about compromise. I think it shows social intelligence, respect for others and promotes a healthy atmosphere. But on that particular occasion, this is how I responded to compromising,

“Look, lady, what part of “Not a chance in the world. Absolutely not. No way. Never” was unclear to you? Come on boys, we have to go.” And I walked away, fuming.

I can definitely say that I achieved a few things on that day. Being a charitable soul was nowhere on the list of accomplishments though:

  1. My son has been calling me “mean” and “horrible” more times than I can count, so all in all, it was a great bonding moment.
  2. The shelter lady might have lost faith in the human race – I know I would have if I had met me!
  3. Even my pets look at me funny. They can sense I said a big, fat “no” to a potentially really fun time with pals.

This was my version of teaching empathy to my kids. Not sure how I am going to top that one next year.

Of course, I am exaggerating. We did go to the event and my son did nag me to get a dog, or ten. But we didn’t argue about it. Instead, we discussed how you should only commit yourself to what you can handle, and how it would be a lot worse to sign up for something and not assume the responsibilities in the long run. The big lesson was, “Think about the consequences of your choices”.

That day, I felt really proud of myself for tackling such a serious topic with tact, elegance and poise. Well done me! As I was leaving my son’s bedroom after kissing him good night, feeling like mother of the year, he chimed, “But Mom, when can we adopt a dog then?” Em…

How do you teach (seriously!) lessons about empathy and responsibility to your children?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Nadege Nicoll. She was born in France but now lives permanently in New Jersey with her family. Nadege also writes a daily blog for moms who need to smile at everyday life. She can be found on Twitter, Facebook and her website www.nadegenicoll.com.

Photo credit to the author.

Nadege Nicoll

Nadege Nicoll was born in France but now lives permanently in New Jersey with her family. She stopped working in the corporate world to raise her three children and multiple pets, thus secretly gathering material for her books. She writes humorous fictions for kids aged 8 to 12. She published her first chapter book, “Living with Grown-Ups: Raising Parents” in March 2013. Her second volume in the series just came out in October 2013. “Living with Grown-Ups: Duties and Responsibilities” Both books take an amusing look at parents’ inconsistent behaviors, seen from the perspective of kids. Nadege hopes that with her work, children will embrace reading and adults will re-discover the children side of parenthood. Nadege has a few more volumes ready to print, so watch this space…

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