PARENTS CAN TEACH CHILDREN EMPATHY WITH SIMPLE DISCUSSIONS. Today you and your child will find a childhood behavior to discuss, what mindsets to avoid, and 7 easy steps for teaching empathy. Use it to help your child grow into a caring person who understands others.
Ask your youngster to analyze this situation by asking, “What don’t we know?”
Sarah gave her friend, Jane, a friendly punch. Jane yelled, “Stop it!” and hit Sarah hard.
Ask your child, "What don't we know?"
Hopefully, she answered, “We don’t know why Jane hit Sarah back so hard.”
Many kids might judge Jane and call her names. But that would put Jane on the defensive and make her mad because no one wants to be judged harshly.
Rather than being a critical judge, ask your child to think of some positive reasons why Jane may have hit Sarah. Why positive?
Usually, when someone does something, even if it’s negative, it’s for a positive reason. We call it the ‘positive intent.’ This is because the doer, (Jane) is getting something positive out of her behavior.
Here are some sample reasons:
- Maybe Sarah told her class a big secret about Jane's family and Jane found out. Now Jane’s breaking off the friendship.
- Maybe Sarah has given Jane too many friendly punches that have bruised her in the past. Now Jane’s showing her what it feels like to stop Sarah from punching her again.
- Maybe Jane was ridiculed by her class for a wrong answer and she thought Sarah’s friendly punch was intended to tease her for it. Jane’s hitting tells Sarah her teasing isn’t funny.
Who knows why Jane reacted the way she did? We’re not mind readers. Only Jane really knows.
But stepping into Jane’s shoes and trying to see the situation from her point of view, your child is on the path to understanding and empathy.
Tell your child, “It’s hard to feel empathy for Jane or anyone else if you’re judging with a mean critical mind.”
Rather than judge, teach your child to:
- Switch your critical thoughts to exploring positive reasons why she did what she did.
- Avoid calling names or making accusations.
- Ask don't tell. "Why did you...? rather than, "You did it because..."
- Listen without judgment.
- Try to see her point of view.
- Show empathy with understanding comments like, "I can see why you felt that way."
- Suggest she apologize, if appropriate.
If you do, she just might follow your suggestion. All because you asked, listened and cared.
Another important point, when someone acts poorly and you understand why they did it, doesn't mean you agree with their negative behavior. It does mean you chose to understand it.
Use these steps, whenever your child tells you about another child’s negative behaviors. Your discussions will be interesting, and you’ll be teaching her to be an empathic person with an understanding character.
Watch this 2 minute video with 5 questions to help your child turn from criticism to empathy.
How Parents Teach Empathy to Kids
The Transcript with the 5 Questions is beneath the video at YouTube when you click Show More.
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