Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.”

Advertising

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

More by this author

Date Someone Who Can Do These 10 Things To Make You Happy 8 Practical Tips for Parents of Kids with ADHD 12 Ways To Teach Your Children The Skill Of Empathy 8 Things You Should Never Say to Your Spouse The Best Thing a Parent Can do for a Highly Emotional Child.

Trending in Family

1 15 Best Father’s Day Gifts Your Father Won’t Buy On His Own 2 6 Ways to Care For Your Aging Parents From a Distance 3 What to Do If You Grew up in a Dysfunctional Family 4 How to Strengthen Family Bonds When You’re Staying at Home 5 How To Set Family Goals To Build A Happy Family (With Examples)

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 10, 2020

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

—they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

Advertising

Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

Advertising

You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

  • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
  • When do you feel disrespected?
  • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
  • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
  • When do you want to be alone?
  • How much space do you need?

You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

Advertising

  • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
  • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
  • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
  • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
  • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
  • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

Advertising

Final Thoughts

Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

Read Next