5 Lessons on Compassion: Teaching Children Empathy
As a parent, it’s important to raise your children not only as smart citizens but also as individuals who can identify and respond kindly to the realities of other people. If you are unsure about how to go about teaching children empathy, the following tips can help you get started.
Be a positive role model.
Children learn new behaviors and concepts by mimicking adults, particularly their parents. It’s not enough to tell your kids that they need to practice compassion. You have to show empathy yourself and embody it.
Train kids to introspect and reflect.
Introspection gives individuals the avenue to better know themselves. Training children early on to examine themselves without the help of another person makes it easier for them to reflect on how their words and actions affect the people around them. When used for self-improvement, introspection can be a useful tool for children to identify what qualities they can improve on to understand their surroundings.
Allow children to think for themselves.
Children will always need the guidance of adults, and certain rules are needed to be implemented to keep them within the lines of the law. Explain your rules. Make them understand that these rules are not made to constrict them but to teach them to respect boundaries and the law in general.
Let them to decide for themselves as well. Start with small decisions when they’re still young, and let them decide on bigger matters as they get older. Always make them weigh the pros and cons of every decision they make. Will it benefit only themselves? Or is there a way for them to benefit others as well?
Encourage positive social interactions.
Today, children are so used to seeing the world through their computer’s monitors that they believe a few comments and responses from their keyboards are enough to consider them as member of the community. This isn’t an entirely bad thing, but it prevents your children from engaging in interpersonal communication, where they can study nonverbal cues like gestures and facial expressions.
Teaching children empathy includes teaching them that understanding others is more than listening to their voice or reading their notes. It’s detecting and understanding what’s in between the lines.
Help your kids find common ground with others.
How do you find common ground with other people? One of the more effective ways is role-playing. Parents can start small like reading children’s books that promote compassion and letting their kids take the role of one of the characters. You can also give them scenarios where they can imagine what it’s like to be in the shoes of other children from different backgrounds.
Yes, teaching children empathy is not an easy thing, especially when they are born in a well-off family. So it’s best to make kids understand the concept of privilege, how other people cannot embrace empathy because of their privileged upbringing, and how they can avoid growing up to become those people.