Teaching Empathy – How to Raise a Child You Want to Meet in 25 Years

 “If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

– Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

It was the PTO’s annual ‘meet the candidates’ for the Board of Education.  One speaker promised funds would stay in the district and not go to other (implied poorer) districts. I raised my hand and asked if said differently, aren’t we responsible to ensure all children have a good education? No reaction.

At that point I realized that my kids were going to school with his kids, and we have the responsibility to teach our children that all children didn’t have the same start in life.  But how could we do that without lecturing?

Our solution was to sign up for Big Brothers/Big Sisters where we were introduced to a wonderful mom and her two children, close in age to our kids.  As often happens when you try to help someone else, you gain so much more.

The first time we picked up our little brother and sister it was like The Wizard of Oz film transition from black and white to Technicolor, but in reverse.  We left the lush and gorgeous colors of our pretty middle class town to the sepia tones of the inner city.

It was immediately apparent playing outside was not an option as evidenced by the hypodermic needles strewn on the walkway, and questionable characters standing guard on the rooftop.  While we found it helpful to introduce the kids to our simple world of apple picking, bowling and trips to the city, they had given us and our children a view of life we could have never understood.

To do this day we continue our relationship with this family, who have become an extension of ours.

When a parent teaches the gift of empathy, that connection changes everything.

What can you?

  • Use the word empathy which is the capacity to understand what another person is experiencing from within the other person’s frame of reference, i.e., to place oneself in another’s shoes. Ask open ended questions when children present a situation, such as “Tell me about it” or “How do you think she felt?”
  • Set the example.  Be empathetic and caring to your child and others, and she will learn. Because she loves you, believes you are perfect, and wants to be just like you, she will grow up wanting to treat herself and others with the same loving kindness she gets from you.

Parenting with empathy helps your child to learn to manage his emotions, while experiencing your empathy will also help him to develop empathy for others. A child who feels empathy is more cooperative in accepting your guidance, making parenting a lot easier!

Be sure to like Parental Wisdom’s Facebook page and share stories where your child demonstrated empathy.  We’d love to hear from you.

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Thanks and have a great week!

Tina Nocera, Mom & Founder

Parental Wisdom®

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One Response to “Teaching Empathy – How to Raise a Child You Want to Meet in 25 Years”

  1. Karen Van Cott says:

    Well said Tina!

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