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12 Ways To Teach Your Children The Skill Of Empathy

12 Ways To Teach Your Children The Skill Of Empathy

What is “empathy” and why is it important? “Empathy” is the ability to be aware of another’s perspective and regulate your own emotional responses. It contributes to emotional stability, resilience, the ability to overcome adversity, social connectedness, and general contentment. Empathy is absolutely a skill worth cultivating on our children. But how do we go about such a task?

1. Provide consistent emotional and physical support to your child.

Studies have demonstrated that when kids have secure attached relationships, they are more likely to start caring for other children in distress.

2. Give your child plenty of physical affection.

Research shows that people who are provided with hugs, cuddles, and other physical touch, experience increases in their oxytocin levels. This, researchers believe, contributes to better abilities to decode, understand, and relate to the experiences of others.

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3. Keep in mind that your child is his/her own person with a mind of his/her own.

This allows for discussions about the unique perspectives and emotions of your child, without any inaccurate assumptions or projections. It also helps instill the idea that “it is okay to accept other people’s unique goals, desires, beliefs, feelings, and thoughts.”

4. Role-play with your child.

In one study, kids were asked to act-out the difficulties of old age (wearing glasses to distort vision and gloves to inhibit fine motor skills), and they ended up having much more empathy for the elderly. Sometimes, asking a child “how would you feel if….” is not as effective as actually role-playing being in the situation.

5. Intentionally discuss the perspectives of others.

Ask your child how he thinks people and characters feel given their situations. Use real-life, books, and movies as material. What do the characters feel, and why? What unique and formative experiences have they had to lead them to feel a certain way? One study showed that kids who discussed the emotions of characters in a book demonstrated more empathic tendencies than kids who simply read the books and drew pictures.

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6. Empathize with your child and then teach your child to problem-solve when he or she experiences negative feelings.

Research indicates that kids are more likely to show empathic concern for others if they have parents who show sympathy and guidance all them time, not just when they are upset.

7. Intentionally point out this fact: When a person looks at someone else’s upsetting situation while that person is in a calm emotional state, it is hard for that calm person to truly understand what the upset person is going through.

When your child is really upset about something, take that opportunity to point out that THIS is how so-and-so felt when such and such happened. In essence, strike while the emotion is hot.

8. Show your own empathy for other people in front of your child.

Pointing out your understanding of other people’s perspectives and sympathy for their situation is modeling such behavior for your child. Books, movies, and real-life can all provide opportunities for demonstrating your own empathy.

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9. Talk about the way your child’s feelings affect his or her choices in behavior.

Connect the dots between the time your child was feeling inferior from getting a low grade and two hours later when he called his little brother stupid.

10. Point out what your child has in common with other people.

Research shows that kids are more likely to feel empathy for other children who are similar to them. If your child is annoyed with his little brother for making so much noise, point out that when he was three, he loved to make race-car noises too.

11. Teach your child the pro-social reasons for rules instead of simply threatening punishment.

Teach him or her that it is not okay to hit because it “hurts others,” not so he or she avoids time out. Teach him or her about the effects of stealing on its victim, not about how “criminals go to jail.”

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12. Teach your child about validation.

Teach your child that others act the way they do for understandable reasons, given their experiences, sensitivities, and emotional and physical needs, and unique situations. Before your child continues on his tirade about how disgusted he is that his teacher yelled at him for no reason, explain that perhaps this woman’s behaviors were influenced by many experiences with bratty teenagers over her teaching career. For older kids, you may even go so far as to teach them about the famous Stanley Milgram experiment when average, pro-social people were persuaded into giving others painful electric shocks given the situation, tendency to trust, and need to conform.

Featured photo credit: greyerbaby via mrg.bz

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Last Updated on November 20, 2018

10 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

10 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

A new year beautifully symbolizes a new chapter opening in the book that is your life. But while so many people like you aspire to achieve ambitious goals, only 12% of you will ever experience the taste of victory. Sound bad? It is. 156 million people (that’s 156,000,000) will probably give up on their resolution before you can say “confetti.” Keep on reading to learn why New Year’s resolutions fail (and how to succeed).

Note: Since losing weight is the most common New Year’s resolution, I chose to focus on weight loss (but these principles can be applied to just about any goal you think of — make it work for you!).

1. You’re treating a marathon like a sprint.

Slow and steady habit change might not be sexy, but it’s a lot more effective than the “I want it ALL and I want it NOW!” mentality. Small changes stick better because they aren’t intimidating (if you do it right, you’ll barely even notice them!).

If you have a lot of bad habits today, the last thing you need to do is remodel your entire life overnight. Want to lose weight? Stop it with the crash diets and excessive exercise plans. Instead of following a super restrictive plan that bans anything fun, add one positive habit per week. For example, you could start with something easy like drinking more water during your first week. The following week, you could move on to eating 3 fruits and veggies every day. And the next week, you could aim to eat a fistful of protein at every meal.

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2. You put the cart before the horse.

“Supplementing” a crappy diet is stupid, so don’t even think about it. Focus on the actions that produce the overwhelming amount of results. If it’s not important, don’t worry about it.

3. You don’t believe in yourself.

A failure to act can cripple you before you leave the starting line. If you’ve tried (and failed) to set a New Year’s resolution (or several) in the past, I know it might be hard to believe in yourself. Doubt is a nagging voice in your head that will resist personal growth with every ounce of its being. The only way to defeat doubt is to believe in yourself. Who cares if you’ve failed a time or two? This year, you can try again (but better this time).

4. Too much thinking, not enough doing.

The best self-help book in the world can’t save you if you fail to take action. Yes, seek inspiration and knowledge, but only as much as you can realistically apply to your life. If you can put just one thing you learn from every book or article you read into practice, you’ll be on the fast track to success.

5. You’re in too much of a hurry.

If it was quick-and-easy, everybody would do it, so it’s in your best interest to exercise your patience muscles.

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6. You don’t enjoy the process.

Is it any wonder people struggle with their weight when they see eating as a chore and exercise as a dreadful bore? The best fitness plan is one that causes the least interruption to your daily life. The goal isn’t to add stress to your life, but rather to remove it.

The best of us couldn’t bring ourselves to do something we hate consistently, so make getting in shape fun, however you’ve gotta do it. That could be participating in a sport you love, exercising with a good friend or two, joining a group exercise class so you can meet new people, or giving yourself one “free day” per week where you forget about your training plan and exercise in any way you please.

7. You’re trying too hard.

Unless you want to experience some nasty cravings, don’t deprive your body of pleasure. The more you tell yourself you can’t have a food, the more you’re going to want it. As long as you’re making positive choices 80-90% of the time, don’t sweat the occasional indulgence.

8. You don’t track your progress.

Keeping a written record of your training progress will help you sustain an “I CAN do this” attitude. All you need is a notebook and a pen. For every workout, record what exercises you do, the number of repetitions performed, and how much weight you used if applicable. Your goal? Do better next time. Improving your best performance on a regular basis offers positive feedback that will encourage you to keep going.

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9. You have no social support.

It can be hard to stay motivated when you feel alone. The good news? You’re not alone: far from it. Post a status on Facebook asking your friends if anybody would like to be your gym or accountability buddy. If you know a co-worker who shares your goal, try to coordinate your lunch time and go out together so you’ll be more likely to make positive decisions. Join a support group of like-minded folks on Facebook, LinkedIn, or elsewhere on the internet. Strength in numbers is powerful, so use it to your advantage.

10. You know your what but not your why.

The biggest reason why most New Year’s resolutions fail: you know what you want but you not why you want it.

Yes: you want to get fit, lose weight, or be healthy… but why is your goal important to you? For example:

Do you want to be fit so you can be a positive example that your children can admire and look up to?

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Do you want to lose fat so you’ll feel more confident and sexy in your body than ever before?

Do you want to be healthy so you’ll have increased clarity, energy, and focus that would carry over into every single aspect of your life?

Whether you’re getting in shape because you want to live longer, be a good example, boost your energy, feel confident, have an excuse to buy hot new clothes, or increase your likelihood of getting laid (hey, I’m not here to judge) is up to you. Forget about any preconceived notions and be true to yourself.

  • The more specific you can make your goal,
  • The more vivid it will be in your imagination,
  • The more encouraged you’ll be,
  • The more likely it is you will succeed (because yes, you CAN do this!).

I hope this guide to why New Year’s resolutions fail helps you achieve your goals this year. If you found this helpful, please pass it along to some friends so they can be successful just like you. What do you hope to accomplish next year?

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