The education we get during our childhood shapes the rest of our life. That’s why parenting is a challenging task as you have to instill all the good human qualities into your child’s mind. If parenting goes right, a child would possess the humane attributes. Otherwise, the child may lack kindness and empathy when he/she grows up. Your children will feel others’ sufferings and care for others in the future if you know how to teach kindness and empathy now. We should start teaching our kids empathy to get a better world to live in. Keep reading to know what empathy is, why it’s important and how to teach empathy to a child.
What is empathy?
Empathy is an emotional state which refers to the ability and willingness to recognize, understand, and feel the needs, problems and sufferings of others. It also enables a person to respond to the miseries of any creatures including human and animals. Empathy yields in kindness, compassion and caring attitude. Without a sense of empathy, it is impossible to establish peace in this world. This world will get better if we can imagine ourselves in others’ shoes.
Why teaching children empathy is important?
A child’s ability to understand, manage and express emotional feelings helps him build his/her personality. The action of an individual depends largely on his/her upbringing. So, it’s important to do that right. A perfect upbringing will help the kids grow as kind persons. And kindness is very important in our life. A kind kid will have concerns about the feelings and emotional state of the fellow kids. A child having kindness and empathy will show his concern through thoughts and actions. That will eventually result in the well-being of the child.
Besides, a large number of students get bullied and disrespected in school. A kind and empathetic child will never bully anyone, on the contrary, he/she will stand against it. He/she will not call anyone by bad names. Kind students are more socially accepted by their peers. An act of kindness and empathy benefits the whole community in many ways. That’s why teaching kids empathy is really essential.
How to teach kindness and empathy
Teachers and parents play the biggest roles in shaping the personality of a child. So, it’s very important for them to know the right ways of teaching kindness and sympathy. Before teaching these things to the children we should, at first, foster empathy and kindness in ourselves. Model empathy and kindness in yourself as the first step to teach kids empathy and kindness.
Model empathy and kindness in yourself
Children like to learn from the people around him. They mimic the behavior of others and implement that in their own behavior. They are born imitators. So, we should present an imitable character before them which will help them grow as a good human being. So, start teaching yourself before teaching the kids.
Have you ever gossiped about a coworker? Become mad at someone? Abused someone? If yes, then you need to model kindness and compassion in yourself. Learn how to control your anger and consider the bad effects that might have on your surroundings. When you are done with your learning, build a good relationship with the children to teach them empathy and kindness.
Build a good relationship with your child
No matter how hard you try to teach your child something if you both share an untrusting relationship no learning will occur. So, build a good and friendly relationship with your kids prior to teaching them something. Besides, this is the most important prerequisite of parenting. You must be friends with your children.
Focus on teaching children empathy
When you are ready to teach them kindness and empathy and have a good relationship with the kids, the real learning process finds its course. Be a parent or a teacher, by following the below techniques you will be able to successfully impart empathy and kindness to the children. Though there is no absolute method of teaching kids empathy and kindness, these techniques are believed to be effective.
a) Listen and understand them
The first step to understanding someone is to listen to him/her. We have to listen to understand. Good listeners are more empathetic than others. Respect the opinion of others and try to listen more than you talk. Don’t just listen, try to figure out the essence of the discussion. If you listen to kids, understand their problems and act accordingly, they will learn to do the same.
b) Introduce them to negative emotions and feelings
Most of the children don’t understand different negative emotions and feelings. Thus, they don’t know how to react to these unknown emotional states. If anyone is mad with someone, make him/her understand that this is called anger. Make them aware of the impacts of the acts we do when we feel frustrated, angry, embarrassed, and many more. Help them understand that if we react poorly in such situations, this will have an impact on the relationship with people. If we can make them understand the impact of their actions, they will be reflective about their emotions.
c) Encourage them to care for others
The foundation of a child’s ethical viewpoints lies in the behaviors of the parents. The children need to see and hear their parents caring for others. The parents can encourage their children to help their friends in need while working for good causes. They can help their fellows in different works and express concerns about the people who are suffering around the neighborhood. The children will automatically learn to care for others if you exhibit such examples before them.
d) Teach them to understand others’ feelings
This is the most difficult thing to teach. We often fail to understand what trouble someone is facing unless we face the same situation. But it’s important to help the children understand other feelings. A parent or a teacher can do this by describing different situations to the children. Suppose a sibling or a classmate of a child is upset for some reasons. The teacher or parent can address this mental state of that child and ask them if they have felt the same. The parents can instill compassion at home by providing opportunities to practice kindness and empathy. This will help them find a universal connection with everyone in terms of feelings and emotions.
e) Assign manageable tasks to the kids
We do different household chores at the home every day. If you engage the children to do manageable tasks, they will understand the difficulty of working and help each other to overcome that difficulty. Thus, they will learn to value the efforts we make to do anything. This will ignite a sense of fellow feeling into their mind.
f) Acknowledge their efforts
The best way to encourage the child to do something good is to appreciate their good deeds. If they ever do anything that’s appreciable, never miss the chance to acknowledge their efforts. This will influence them to do more good deeds. If it’s about kindness and empathy, they will be more kind and empathetic.
g) Read with them
Reading storybooks and fictions with your children is a wonderful way to help them realize what feelings we have in different situations. Suppose, the protagonist of the story lost his cricket bat. You can ask your child to tell how the protagonist is feeling. Then, you can help him/her recognize others’ feelings build a bridge between the feelings of others and the feelings of him/her. This is just an example, there might be a lot more incident you can address while reading books with your children.
h) Expose them to the world
Some parents are so protective that they create an invisible shield around their children and don’t let them face the world outside this bubble shield. This is very bad as this will keep the children unaware of the differences of life, cultures, religions etc. because of this restriction, the protected children may think that their experiences are the only one out there. So, expose the children to the world in age-appropriate ways. And travel with them as much as possible. This will help them grow a mentality capable of accepting the differences in others.
i) Engage them in community service
Volunteer engagement can help the children learn how to deal with unfamiliar conditions being out of their comfort zone. If they face the difficulties of uncomfortable situations, they will understand how a person feels when he/she feels uncomfortable. Besides, by engaging in community service they will know that their actions have impacts on the community. They will feel useful. This will teach them to show gratitude to the people who serve your community. The children will be aware of and sensitive about others’ struggle.
j) Monitor media and point out heroes
A research published by UNSECO revealed the impact of the news and TV programs on young minds. It’s important to help them focus on the positivity of media. Suppose there is a fire outbreak and TVs are making headlines about it. As a parent, you should focus on the heroics of the firefighters and the rescuers. Besides, there are a lot of contents on the internet and media which is not suitable for the kids. The parents should monitor such media and entertainment on the basis of the age of the children.
k) Keep it real and stop the contagion
Being kind and empathetic doesn’t necessarily mean that one has to like everyone. Liking everyone is an impossible thing. If your kid gets angry at someone, try to find out the cause behind the rise of this anger. If this is a valid reason, make him/her understand that people make bad choices sometimes. It’s okay to get angry at such situations but we have to control our emotion and avoid doing any hateful or hurtful action. Some people spend most of their time doing backbiting and unnecessary gossips. Keep your children away from such low-spirited, negative minded people. Negativity is contagious, stop this contagion.
l) Apologize if needed
To err is human. It’s very natural to commit mistakes. If you do something hurtful to the children don’t hesitate to apologize. This will teach them to learn that people make mistakes and they should be sorry if they hurt others. So, apologize to your children if needed.
Plato rightly said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” We will have a peaceful world if we give empathy a fighting chance. Children are the future habitants of this world. If they are kind and empathetic, the world will be in safe hands. Besides, cruelty is the attribute of an evil and wicked heart. No one wants his/her child to be cruel. That’s why knowing how to teach kindness and empathy to a child is essential. The above discussion will surely help you in this regard.