Unless you raise your kids with a good amount of empathy for others, they may turn out to be bullies or unable to make friendships easily. Later on, those traits might carry through to their career paths and personal relationships.
Empathetic children tend to have a better outlook on the world and able to empathize with others in parts of the world that are not nearly as advantaged. They’ll tend to want to make the world a better place and have a spirit of thankfulness.
Although toddlers aren’t fully capable of understanding empathy, those just a bit over that age does have the capacity for developing an empathetic personality. And, the earlier you begin to teach your child, the better opportunity he has of being empathetic.
The best way a child can learn about empathy is to be a good role model. Addressing your child’s needs appropriately let him know that you’re empathetic to his needs. For example, if your child expresses hunger, but you don’t have dinner ready, validate the fact that he’s hungry and explain that the dinner has to cook before he can eat it.
You can also help him see emotions in others. For example, if you pick up your child at school and one of his friends is crying or distressed, you might ask your child if he knows why his friend was sad. That gets him to talking about and understanding emotions.
Use non-verbal as well as verbal ways to let your child learn emotions. You could use various facial expressions and ask if he can guess how you’re feeling. Use your voice to demonstrate happy, sad or angry emotions and ask your child to tell which you’re using.
Talk to your child about including other children who may feel left out. If a child is sitting alone at the lunch table, encourage your child to sit with him and begin a conversation. He’ll remember the good reaction of the child who was left out.
Your behavior and encouragement for empathy are good teaching tools. Give the child praise when he shows caring for another child – or animal – and if he exhibits bad behavior toward someone, discuss how things could be different to produce a better outcome.
Pretend play is also a good teaching tool for empathy. For example, you might ask if a certain teddy bear could sleep with him because the bear feels lonely sitting in the corner of the room.
Unfortunately, in our broken world, your child won’t always be rewarded with the same amount of empathy he gives to others. Always discuss that type of situation with the child and help him think of why the other person might act in a hateful manner.
Teaching your child that, no matter what the circumstances, other people deserve understanding and respect will be the foundation of empathy that his life is built upon.