Empathy has become a major cultural topic. Parenting boards discuss it, schools emphasize it on professional development days, and even popular entertainment has made it a focus. But when it comes to teaching empathy to your child, things can be difficult. After all, we tend to think of empathy as something you either have or don’t.
But the truth is that it is just another aspect of our children that we can shape. The question is how to do it. To help, try our four ways to teach your child empathy below.
Does your child love Daniel Tiger? There is a good reason for that, beyond his adorable face: he teaches kids how to understand and manage their emotions. We don’t think about it as adults, but there was once a time when we experienced feelings and had no words for them. Once children can identify their emotions, they are better able to see them in others, and then react accordingly.
As part of this, discuss feelings together. This means letting your child share, but you need to share too. When big events happen, talk about your emotions, and even on a daily basis, mention them. Make it a part of the dialogue in your home.
And not just when your child does it. It can be family, neighbors, strangers in the store: point it out, recognize it, praise it. This can open up the discussions mentioned above as well. Eventually, your child will praise friends and classmates for these behaviors, allowing your work with your child to become something bigger.
If you use negative emotions to control your child, it tells them that you do not have empathy for them. Instead, practice what you preach. Use empathy while disciplining. No, you do not need to let your child get away with murder, but you can enforce boundaries in an empathetic manner.
It is hard to identify with others if we don’t understand what they experience. If your child is given everything they need without giving in return, it is hard to understand where others are coming from. Start small at a young age and then build up as time goes by.
Are there special ways you try to teach your child empathy? Let us know in the comments below.