What is empathy? Empathy is the ability to feel and sense the emotional needs of others and to relate to their concerns. A child learns how to be empathetic first from their parents, and second in practice when playing with other children.
In a world where shootings are more common in public schools and bullying is prevalent with young online and off, there’s a strong need for empathy to be expressed by young people today. But, for youngsters to learn what empathy means and to have it within themselves, parents need to slow down and practice it with their children long before the grade school years begin.
Although there are no grades for kindness giving at school, a Harvard study reveals that it could be the most significant indicator of a student’s future success.
To be kind is to be empathetic, caring, and considerate of others. Even thought kindness isn’t something taught specifically on a standardized test or pop quiz, students who were thoughtful towards their peers scored big points when it came to how much they were liked by others.
In fact, kindness and empathy, like other character traits, are taught mostly by the parents in the home and then practiced in the world when their folks aren’t around.
A 2007 study on Empathy and the Workplace revealed that kindness was a significant factor in adult workplace success as well. Empathy is the ability to understand and relate to the thoughts and emotions of others, a key trait in leadership.
Psychologist Richard Weissbourd formed the Making Caring Common project to help encourage the weight empathy could carry in the college application process and its presence in high schools. He hopes to take the focus off of academic and achievement performances based on grades or activities and to redirect it towards ethic and character.
How can a parent teach their child empathy? The first step is to model the behavior when the opportunity presents itself. Of course, you may want to teach your child responsibility when they make a mistake but also show concern for their pain through the process.
For example, if you tell your child to clean up their room, and later he or she howls in pain because they stepped on a lego, give a hug first and share that you know how much it hurts, teaches empathy. Showing them to pick up the object and put it away while kindly reminding of the valuable lesson on cleanliness, teaches character.
Parents can also encourage observing others in acts of empathy that lead to leadership potential in the future. If watching videos is a family time you enjoy, watching stories of heroic attempts to rescue animals in nature can show different forms of empathy in action.
Visiting local animal shelters and donating used towels, delivering rice and beans or canned goods to a homeless shelter or soup kitchen can also teach compassion and empathy in action that leads to human leadership, accountability and kindness in your child when they become an adult.