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8 Effective Ways To Teach Your Children Empathy

8 Effective Ways To Teach Your Children Empathy

Your three year-old may have a tendency to say things like, “I hate my teacher! I never want to go to school again”, without even realizing that the teacher is within earshot. Empathy is a critical social skill that can both be developed naturally and nurtured within a child.

Scientists allege that EQ (emotional intelligence) is equally, if not more important, than IQ (intelligence quotient) in determining success in life.The ability to deal with one’s own and other’s emotions also accounts for emotional intelligence. Some researchers have gone so far as to claim that emotional intelligence plays a major role in not only the satisfaction with your social and personal life, but also the aspects of your academic and career life.

The National Scientific Council on the Developing Child states, “If we really want to build a strong platform for healthy development and effective learning in the early childhood years … then we must pay as much attention to children‘s emotional wellbeing and social capacities as we do to their cognitive abilities and academic skills”. Also, a study conducted by researchers from the Curtin University of Technology (based on the Canadian-developed “Roots of Empathy” program) claims that “pro-social behavior of the children in the Roots of Empathy classes increased while bullying and aggression decreased.”

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How do we engrain this vital trait in our little ones? Here are some science-backed tips on how it can be done.

1) Get them a Pet

According to a statement from the Washington Post, a variety of research supports the idea of empathy scores increasing due to an attachment to a pet. A pet can teach a child how to love and care for sensitive creatures who are dependent on other social beings. Having a pet teaches a child to be self-less, thereby increasing the ability to feel for others. To master empathy, a child also needs to be able to read and recognize non-verbal cues which are the only ways pets communicate to us.

2) Encourage them to Read Literary Fiction

While commercial or genre-based fiction have a clear plot and a story that appeals to a wide audience, literary fiction focuses on each individual character, their development in the story, and their reactions to what happens in the story. According to a study by researchers at The New School in New York, literary fiction improves a reader’s capacity to understand what others are feeling. Kidd, a researcher, says: “Often those characters’ minds are depicted vaguely, without many details, and we’re forced to fill in the gaps to understand their intentions and motivations”. The reader is left to predict the inner monologues of characters often throughout the book.

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This carries over to the real world and enables readers to understand a person’s psyche and the feelings of those who are different from us.

3) Praise Empathetic Behavior

Every time your kid expresses kindness and generosity towards another person, reward the act. They may be giving a sufferer a shoulder, offering advice or help with an essay, or simply sharing their favorite stationary item. Let them know that you thought the gesture was highly courteous. Positive reinforcement will work best in this situation and increase the likelihood that the behavior will repeat. Don’t let the “you can have mine if you like” and simple acts of kindness go unrewarded.

4) Be the Empathetic Role Model

One of the best ways to teach your children to be empathetic and socially competent is by modeling the behavior yourself. Psychologists have long known the fact that children learn by imitating adults. Listen to what your child has to say, show them how to be selfless, and pay careful attention to their emotional needs. When your children notice how you react to their emotional outbursts, they will internalize the behavior and make an effort to respond to others in the same manner.

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5) Be Physically Affectionate

Given enough hugs, cuddles, and kisses, a child can learn how to be the perfect person. This may sound far-fetched, but it really isn’t. Numerous studies have shown how physical affection improves our moods, reduces depression and anxiety, and increases friendship and trust. With these incredibly positive feelings bouncing around in our system, we tend to be more receptive to another’s emotions rather than focusing on ourselves.

6) Give them a Set of Responsibilities

Teaching your child “responsibility” is not something you do only to groom them into becoming well-rounded adults. Doing chores and learning responsibility also teaches children to care for others and think about “needs” other than their own.

7) Teach them Basic Rules of Politeness

Telling your child to say “please” before they ask someone to pass a dish on the table is just as good as telling your child to be polite to others — or even better because you are being specific. Words such as “Thank you”, “I’m sorry”, “Please”, and “It’s okay” should be an automatic response. Teach them to be patient and wait for others before taking their turn. Let them know when they are being impolite and instruct them how to respond to the situation correctly after apologizing. Sometimes, it’s the subtleties that make all of the difference.

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8) Teach Them to Think Before they Respond

One of the important life lessons you can teach your child is to think before they respond. This is also crucial to social competence and responding with empathy. Even if their first thought is not in line with the best or “most empathetic” response, they will give their words and actions a second thought before making them known. This increases the likelihood that the response will be considerate one.

Featured photo credit: Empathetic Kid via flickr.com

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Sadie Douse

Sadie is an executive academic consultant at CorpEssay. She's also a passionate writer who shares lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on January 24, 2021

How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

Do you say yes so often that you no longer feel that your own needs are being met? Are you wondering how to say no to people?

For years, I was a serial people pleaser[1]. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time, especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

It took a long while, but I learned the art of saying no. Saying no meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. When that happened, I became a lot happier.

And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

The Importance of Saying No

When you learn the art of saying no, you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey, considered one of the most successful women in the world, confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything.

Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

Warren Buffett views “no” as essential to his success. He said:

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

When I made “no” a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success, focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say no.

From an early age, we are conditioned to say yes. We said yes probably hundreds of times in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work, to get a promotion, to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

We say yes because we feel good when we help someone, because it can seem like the right thing to do, because we think that is key to success, and because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist.

And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

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At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we are feeling bad that we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

The message, no matter where we turn, is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

How Do You Say No Without Feeling Guilty?

Deciding to add the word “no” to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say no, but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of no that you could finally create more time for things you care about.

But let’s be honest, using the word “no” doesn’t come easily for many people.

3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time, especially you haven’t done it much in the past, will feel awkward. Your comfort zone is “yes,” so it’s time to challenge that and step outside that.

If you need help getting out of your comfort zone, check out this article.

2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

When you want to learn how to say no, remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it: who else knows about all of the demands in your life? No one.

Only you are at the center of all of these requests. You are the only one that understands what time you really have.

3. Saying No Means Saying Yes to Something That Matters

When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else that we may care more about. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

6 Ways to Start Saying No

Incorporating that little word “no” into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

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1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

One of the biggest challenges to saying no is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no will reflect poorly on you?

Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because of FOMO, even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better[2].

3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say No

Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say yes because we worry about how others will respond or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose their respect. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

Keep in mind that saying no can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way.

You might disappoint someone initially, but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to. And it will often help others have more respect for you and your boundaries, not less.

4. When the Request Comes in, Sit on It

Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say no. There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

5. Communicate Your “No” with Transparency and Kindness

When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest[3] to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

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How do you say no? 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

    Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

    Clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

    6. Consider How to Use a Modified No

    If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” as this will give you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

    Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task, but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

    Final Thoughts

    Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

    Use the request as a way to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself.

    Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project, but not by working all weekend. You’ll find yourself much happier.

    More Tips on How to Say No

    Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Science of People: 11 Expert Tips to Stop Being a People Pleaser and Start Doing You
    [2] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Tips to Get Over Your FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out
    [3] Cooks Hill Counseling: 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

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