Monday, May 03, 2010

There Should Be A Manual. Seriously.

I was in a meeting awhile back and a colleague mentioned that they had recently read a report suggesting that a child’s ability to feel empathy was a strong indicator of both academic and life success.

[blink. blink.]

[Deer in headlights followed by...]

[Deep, ponderous thought.]

[Later trailed by emergence from deep pondering with BUBKISS to show for it.]

How DOES a parent best teach empathy?


Kate said...

I'm pretty sure this is one of those "lead by example" things. But seriously, as a whole kids are selfish, heartless little buggers. Luckily most of them will grow out of it given enough love and caring.

s said...

Some ideas I would throw out to you on teaching empathy would be to expose your children to other cultures, traditions, so that they know that ONE way is not the only way. Does that make sense?
Also, involving them with senior citizens, mentally ill, mentally/physically challenged people. See a homeless person on the street? Make sure they know that that person is just as valuable as anyone else. They life path has been different, but valuable still.
Kindness to animals, plants, the earth all teach empathy and value.

Magimom said...

I think we best teach empathy by being empathetic to others. Children learn best by example. If we are empathetic they will see and learn it themselves.

Sayre said...

The only way I can think of is to show it yourself and explain why you feel sad/are crying/are worried to your child. I think most children get it fairly early on.

Stacy (Mama-Om) said...

There is a manual -- it's your heart. :)

Seriously, the best way to teach empathy? To give it. And I don't mean by modeling it in some abstract way, I mean by giving empathy to your children, as often as you can.

I think we all have the ability to be empathic, though we as adults will often have to learn it overtly, particularly because our culture doesn't promote or value it.

The best ways I've learned about and experienced empathy are through meditation (insight meditation/buddhism) and through learning nonviolent communication. I also did a lot of reading about respectful parenting that convinced me that the power of being empathic to our children cannot be underestimated in terms of helping our children develop to their full human potential and grow their own big hearts.

Sorry, I guess this post touched a passionate spot for me. :)


BabyShrink said...

It's all about helping your child to see another person's perspective -- like a broken record, going over and over what it might be like to be in the other person's shoes. "I wonder how she felt when she got teased like that?" etc.

----BTW, I always thought it was spelled "bupkiss". Just sayin'. ;)

Dr. Heather
The BabyShrink

Shannon said...

Funny, a friend and I were just talking about the need for a manual over the weekend.

Dawn said...

Really? Oh, it seems that you are doing fantastically with this and your kids. I think it's best taught through role modeling and careful conversations.

And the realization that children just aren't hard-wired for it. They are little narcissists, and that's there for very good biological reasons. But they get there. They do!

John Ross said...

Um, yeah....that can be a tough one to get through to them. While thinking on this I wondered how many people really get the difference between empathy and sympathy, so here is a link to a short comparison:

furiousBall said...

i've been strangling baby bunnies in my backyard and asking how my kids felt afterwards to teach them empathy.

joking. seriously, joking.

i think that's one of those osmosis teaching type things - they will learn by you, the parent being an empathetic being.

Yo is Me said...

i'm going with the Lead by Example thing. i hope i hope i hope. i explained what empathy was to my nephew. we have conversations about empathy, how it's different than feeling sympathy, and different from saying you're sorry. it's putting yourself in someone else's shoes and imagining what they're feeling, then basing your actions on how you would want to be treated if you felt that way.

it's a constant on going conversation, like talking about sex.

and i agree, i think you've tought your kids without knowing it.

flutter said...

by being a living example. and you are.

Michelle | graphic design pictures said...

I think exposing the child to the real world can teach him empathy. It can be as simple as watching the geography channel or the daily news. Make him aware of the real world that he is not used to seeing.

Anonymous said...

All of the above. We have two boys. One was born that way, the other is only concerned about himself. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

give examples to the children when they are in pain that you have a) experienced the same type of pain (empathy) or b)you can see that they are in pain and you believe it hurts (sympathy). In either A or B, discuss, compare, contrast, learn, and understand.
With love,
Pop of the North

colorbox said...

Based upon the snapshots you share...I have no doubt that you walk this path daily. Acting with empathy towards your child...acting with empathy in front of your child...these two things are all that can be done. I am grateful for how you remind me of this.