We’ve been paying attention to your
requests for new topics. And some of you are asking, “How to teach children empathy?”
Vicki is here with me today to team up on that topic. Maybe a little definition
first, do you think? Empathy has 2 important components. At least, I think.
-Right. -And that is to understand and care how someone else feels. -And it has to be
genuine. That’s one of the things about empathy. You really can’t fake it. -It kind
of defies definition if you do. And this implies something else. Now, in the
Parenting Power-Up which we’ve shared a lot of background about moral
development and the stages of moral development, in that program Vicki, we
talked about how there are different levels of development. And it’s stage 1,
you don’t even have the capability of empathy at that point. Think about an
infant for example. You got a three-month-old baby. Wakes up at 2
o’clock in the morning screaming and hollering for, “Mom, bring me something to
eat.” -No empathy there about mom being tired.
Wow, this kid has no empathy. And we wouldn’t expect this infant to have
empathy. That’s the whole point, right? n the Parenting Power-Up we, made a point
that it’s about stage not age. So, you might have some older kids who are
capable of empathy but they’re not exercising it or they’re not
demonstrating it and that’s something that we would call stage 1 behavior. -It
becomes so important for you to be able to understand what stage your child is
in. Now, that does not mean that a child who’s older and capable of an empathy
and currently acting a stage 1. Can’t have empathy. But probably to expect it
at the moment that they’re stuck in stage 1 behavior and reasoning. It’s
just going to frustrate you both. -That might be the impetus though for wanting
to teach it, because usually, if you’re commenting down in the comments of these
videos saying, “Hey, tell us how to teach kids empathy.” Probably it’s not because
you’re observing a lot of empathy in your kids. -Right. -So, let’s get into some
tips and some strategies that will help us to get there. Probably
good starting point would be with the vocabulary. We’ve taken a moment to
define the word empathy for you and that helps what if we were to define and
identify and practice feeling words. -Yeah, and one of the biggest things for that
is kids learn kind of really basic feeling where it’s happy, mad, sad, glad.
And so a lot of the times we have to teach them some of the nuances. The
nuances words like, frustrated. Because frustrated is a little different than
angry. And so, we teach it a lot by modeling and talking about the feeling
someone else might be having. You know, cartoons, TV shows, books. I love reading
books. You can talk a lot about the feelings that people might be having in
a book. Use some other Vocabulary like frustrated or irritated or you know,
melancholy, blue, sad, down. -How about disappointed? These additional words help
to expand the child’s vocabulary. But also their understanding of what these
feelings are. And remember empathy is understanding and caring how someone
else feels. So, if happy sad, glad, mad is all you’ve got, you’re not going to be
connecting with someone else in a very emphatic way. If you’re disappointed, none of those words really fit
it super well. -Right. -So, you want to teach the vocabulary. Teach the feeling words.
And to go along with that, you sometimes have to teach the
different body language and facial expressions that go with those words. Now,
I do a lot of that in my work. I work with a lot of children who are on the
autism spectrum. And one of the characteristics of children who are on
the autism spectrum is it’s not really intuitive to read someone’s facial
expressions. So, you can start talking about, you know, when you’re surprised
your eyebrows go up. Sometimes your mouth goes into a, “O”. If you’re a happy, you
smile. If you’re disappointed, a lot of times your chin goes down. Maybe you look
up. If you’re feeling a little bit shy. So, you’re going to talk about the different
facial features that are happening in the body language. And I like to do this
when reading stories too. You know, you’re reading a book, you go, “Look at their face,
look at how the eyebrows are kind of pointed in that.
I mean, they’re mad or they’re surprised.” And so, you’re going to practice and talk
about those facial expressions. And even practice making them for a smaller child
especially. Or a child who is just it’s a harder for them to learn some of those
emotion words. -I like what you said about the story books too. Because if you’ve
got an Illustrated story, the illustrator has gone to the trouble of identifying
what these subtle but very characteristic facial expressions are.
And so, it will help isolate and identify that for you so that you can have that
conversation with your child. Your example is huge.
And the more you can model or be an example of empathy, the easier time
you’re going to have teaching this to your children. -Right. And so that can even just
come as like, “Wow”, When you’re seeing something on TV, “Wow, that probably made
him feel…” -Oh… -You know, whatever. That’s how I would feel if that happened to me. And
using this with your children too. One of the points that we made remember in part
of the Parenting Power-Up. We were talking about some discipline techniques and how
to replace anger with empathy. Because sometimes we’ll yell or get angry with
our kids because we’re feeling frustrated and upset, instead of just
putting that aside for a moment and connecting with empathy. So that when
your child suffers a consequence for one of their choices for example. You can say,
“Oh, that really is upsetting to you, isn’t it?” Now, you can’t be sarcastic.
-No, yeah. Because that takes away the whole empathy part. -That would kill the
whole thing. But in a very genuine way. Show that you understand and care how
they feel. Model it with them or like you’re saying Vicky. On a television show
or if you encounter someone out in the community or at the store or the school.
Model that empathy for your kids. -And you know, to go along with that, I think one
of the most important things, you know, you were talking about how you’re going
to have empathy for your child, right? When they’re going through a hard time
that maybe is a result of consequence that you helped bring about. You know.. -You
maybe had something to do with that. -Have brought about. So, one of the things
that’s really important to remember when you’re in empathy is that your goal is
not to fix things. It is simply to understand. -Good point. -And go along the
journey with them. If you’re interested, I think one of the best examples and
illustrations and understanding of that is by Brené Brown. And if you look on
YouTube for her, she has some great little sketches about empathy. -Big shout
out to Brene, she’s done some good work in this area.
Empathy allows us to join with and be connected to other people. And this is
especially important as parents. As we join with and get connected to our kids.
That gives us more influence. It also trains them to take an approach to life
that is far more empathic and kind and open. And accepting and tolerant of other
people as well. So glad that you’re here and part of this positive parenting
community. Vicki and I have put together a course that you’re going to love.
Connect to it right over there or in the description down below. It’s called the
Parenting Power-Up. ParentingPowerUp. com. Come be with me and Vicki in this
course. We want to empower you to be the confident, conscious parent that you can