Does Your Child Know What Empathy Is?
Hey, so I wanted to talk with you about empathy.
Actually the lack of empathy, humans seem to have less of it as time goes on.
I actually find it disheartening with all the bullying that appears to be playing out by adults. It’s in social media, on the news.
And in return, we are telling our own kids to not be the bully!
Everywhere we turn there seems to be so much negativity.
Have we ever considered that our children are exposed to this kind of behavior on a daily basis?
This is an important life skill that has to be taught and nurtured as your child becomes older.
Believe me, this isn’t self-taught.
Your children are not going to learn this from their peers or at school.
Well maybe if their friend’s parents are teaching and demonstrating empathy at home. Then maybe there will be an influence.
I just know that I want my kids to have empathy and I’m darn sure that I want to be an example to them.
We have four children and I might have not taught our first two the best ways to handle negative talk.
I wasn’t the best example of showing tolerance when it came to people around me being cruel or insensitive.
I’m not saying I don’t have any tolerance, I just don’t have tolerance for ignorance.
It is amazing what strangers will say even if they don’t know you.
I’ve had some pretty rude remarks made around me about our 2 special needs children.
This has made me rethink on how I respond because I know they are watching me.
With our oldest two, I would fly off the handle or just tear them down behind their backs.
Obviously, this isn’t a good way to show empathy, tolerance, and kindness.
My children are watching and listening and I want them to do as I do and not as I say.
Well in reference to me not being kind with my words. Hope I got that right!
What Does Controlling Emotions Have To Do With It!
I want to explain myself and clarify what I said above.
Just because someone has said an insensitive remark doesn’t mean I return a negative remark in return.
Here, I will give you a good example.
A few years ago we were at Bass Pro with our two youngest kids. As I’ve mentioned before they have special needs.
So, our son has a pushchair and it’s like a big oversized stroller for older kids that have a mobility issue.
I wasn’t ready to see him in a wheelchair and thankfully there are other options out there.
But still he was only five years old, you could tell by looking at it, this wasn’t a normal-looking stroller.
Well were having a good time when all of a sudden this guy, which by the way he had a kid with him and maybe his wife.
He waits right till he passes us and says very loudly, “did you just see that kid, he is way too old and big to be pushed around in a stroller.”
You know he wanted us to hear that or he wouldn’t have said it so loudly.
I wanted to turn around and say, “hey you jackass my child has a disability and can’t walk for long periods of time.”
But I didn’t, I just said to my husband, what an A-Hole to say crap like that when he doesn’t even know us. I said it in front of both kids.
The point I’m trying to make here is, yes the guy did say something very insensitive, but I should have either kept my mouth shut or used that as a teaching moment.
What I mean by teaching moment is, I should have pointed out that he doesn’t know us and didn’t realize your chair was a stroller for kids with disabilities.
This would have shown my kids that sometimes people say things when they don’t have all the information.
Let’s Talk About Examples Of Empathy
Now that I’ve established that we need to show some tolerance and patience towards others, how are we going to translate that over to our kids?
First of all, you need to lead by example. If you show compassion towards others, then your children will see this and be more likely to mimic it.
I like to find opportunities for my kids to help someone out when we’re at the store.
As an example, we were at the grocery store and there was a woman there that was wearing oxygen and really seemed to be having issues getting her groceries together.
We were walking out and she was right in front of us, so I nudged my son to offer to load her groceries into her car. She was definitely appreciative.
It’s in those moments that your children learn to see a need and find a way to fill it and this shows compassion.
Another example was when our oldest was a teen.
We were outside and she noticed the neighbor had fallen in their front yard.
She didn’t even hesitate and ran over and helped him up.
I didn’t have to prompt her because we had already been instilling in her about different ways to show empathy.
When we raise our children there are just certain traits we need to impart into them on a constant basis.
If we don’t do this they seem to be less empathetic when there is a need present.
And there seem to be people that have the heart to be more compassionate, they were just born that way.
Our second daughter and son naturally have more compassionate hearts.
Our oldest and youngest had to have so more reminding and teaching moments and that’s ok because I see the fruits of our labor paying off.
When Your Child Has A Lack Of Empathy
I do want to address when your child seems to have a lack of empathy and doesn’t recognize compassion.
Our youngest daughter was this way for a long time. She’s 14 now and has improved immensely over time.
But I think a lot has had to do with is that she has a different way of looking at the world.
Shes not Autistic but has a lot of those characteristics that an Autistic child may have.
She was born with Dandy-Walker Malformation and has Hydrocephalus.
So this has a lot to do with why she doesn’t seem to pick up on other peoples feelings.
Having empathy also falls in the category of having certain social skills.
And she doesn’t have the type of social skills most peers her age.
We have had to do a lot of lessons and role play on how to show compassion, empathy, tolerance and recognizing when someone may not be feeling ok.
I also want to add that engaging in conversation with someone, and not just talking about yourself was another way we needed her to understand.
It took some time but she’s starting to recognize that she has to ask how others are doing and be interested in their lives.
Here are just a few ideas on how you can help your child show empathy:
- When your child meets someone new, try to learn about what they like, where are they from. Have them engage in asking simple questions.
- If your child notices someone that is upset like a family member or friend, you want them to ask them if there is something they want to talk about, or even ask what’s wrong will suffice.
- Encourage your child to listen to others before they start talking about themselves.
- Take notice of what other peoples needs are around you.
- Being kind with your words and how to judge others. Everybody is different and be understanding those people.
- Roleplay with your child and give them different scenarios on different life events that the child may come across or see. Examples would be; someone being physically impaired, crying, being upset and frustrated, signs of sickness or loneliness.
- Volunteering as a family is a good way to teach your child to learn compassion for other peoples needs.
What’s important here that they learn by example, showing and pointing out opportunities for your child to demonstrate empathy.
Also, give your child praise when they do show empathy, tolerance, and compassion.
This gives them positive reinforcement that they are doing the right thing.
And if you have a special needs child that needs extra encouragement, there are some really good resources out there that will help you teach this valuable life skill.
We definitely had help with our youngest daughter because she goes to therapy and they also help us reinforce those skills when she is there.
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I will also give you recommendations on what I feel will help you teach empathy to your child here.
One of these recommendations is a board game. If your kids love to play board games as much as mine do, they won’t realize they are learning also while they play.
Here are a few other posts on important Life Skills For Kids:
Well, guys, I hope you found this useful and can find ways to implement this into your child’s daily living.
I would love to hear from you.
You can email me your comments or sign up through my email list.
Domestic Engineer Mom