Empathy Series Article #3: “The Empathy Advantage”

*Featured piece of full article below (Borba, 2017). Read the full article here: https://micheleborba.com/empathic-kids/

“Here are four ideas that might help you raise a more caring, kind children and help them reap The Empathy Advantage (UnSelfie, 2017).

Switch roles
The next time there’s a conflict between your child and a friend (or between you and your child) ask her to stop and think how the other person would feel if the roles were reversed. Then ask her to talk about the problem as if she were the other person:
“What would the other person say?”
“How would you feel if you were the other person?”
“What do you think the friend would want to do?”
“If you were in your friend’s shoes, what would he/she want to tell you?”
If she is very young, it is helpful to use puppets so that each puppet can represent the person in the conflict. It builds empathy.

Call attention to insensitive behavior
Any time your child acts unkindly, use it as an opportunity to help him become more sensitive to the feelings of other people. Just point out the impact of her actions:
“Telling Bert to leave because you wanted to play with Sally was inconsiderate. How would you feel?”
“Not asking Daddy if he wanted to watch a TV show was unkind. How would you feel?”
Be an example of caring, kindness and generosity
Try to find natural ways to help her “give” to others, so she understands the joy giving can bring. Start by doing it yourself and having her watch and do it with you. Here are a couple of ideas:
“The neighbor is sick; let’s make an extra bowl of soup and bring it to her.”
“Daddy is so tired; let’s surprise him and stack the newspapers so he doesn’t have to.”
Make “giving” natural and fun but help your children learn to GIVE. And help them learn to do so without expecting anything in return.

Expect your child to share and consider others
This is one of the first moral behaviors we need to tune up in our kids starting at around 2 or 3 years of age. When he is two you can structure his sharing: “It’s his turn, then your turn, then his turn.” Little kids sometimes need an oven timer as a reminder that the other person should still be allowed to play with the toy. Before friends come over, structure “sharing” by asking him:
“What things will you share with your friend?”
“What do you think he would like to play?”
Put away things that are very special that may cause problems. What’s important on this one is to help your child learn to think of others’ needs and feelings.

The Reality Check here is that while our children are hard-wired to care, that capacity must be nurtured for it to develop. So be intentional about raising a caring child! And then keep finding those opportunities for your children to practice kindness until it becomes a part of their mind-set and your kids can describes themselves as “Caring People.”

By: Dr. Michele Borba, Ed.D.: Author of “UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World.”

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