Raising Empathetic Kids: A Cheat Sheet
Teaching empathy to kids sounds theoretical and complex until you realize that empathy is nothing more than a fancy word for the ability to care about others. Raising kids who are able to notice, articulate, and respond compassionately to those around them means raising kids who are able and ready to succeed in an increasingly interconnected world.
Sounds good, but how? As we’ve consulted with experts across the country, we’ve realized the endeavor isn’t nearly as overwhelming as it seems. Chances are good that many of these are things you’ve already worked into your daily lives. Read on for some helpful, and practical, tips.
Model, Model, Model
As the old adage goes, your kids are watching. Whether it’s being rude to the waiter who misunderstands an order or rolling your eyes at your partner, your kids notice how you interact with the world around you and mirror the behavior. Let’s revisit the disorganized waiter example. Instead of showing frustration, ask your kids “I wonder how he felt when he delivered the wrong meal? How would you feel?” And then listen.
Validate Feelings… Even Unpleasant Ones
Kids are walking feeling machines. Every feeling is a big one. It’s easy to fall into the trap of dismissing “irrational” feelings and pushing your kids to “get over it and get going.” But, as time consuming as it can be, validating your kids emotions does more than make them feel better. It models a truly empathetic response to the emotions of others and gives kids a blueprint for responding to the feelings of their peers as they develop.
Catch Your Kids Being Kind
Reinforced behavior sticks around. It’s a parenting fact as old as time. Rather than embarking on one lengthy conversation about feelings and kindness after another, catch your kids being kind to their siblings, friends, and relatives. If you see your son lift his brother up to get something off a shelf or you witness your daughter offer a friend a hug, praise them for their kindness. Chances are high that your positive reinforcement will have a much longer lasting impact than even the best conversation can.
As always, we welcome tips from you! Feel free to visit our Facebook page and let us know how you’re teaching empathy to your little ones.