Do you think your child lacks empathy or want to ensure they’re more empathetic?
My guess is they already have more empathy than you know, as you can see parenting expert Holly Anderson points out in the child empathy test.
Some feel empathy can’t be taught, but in-fact it can and we’re about to show you.
How To Make Sure No Child Lacks Empathy
As parents, we do all we can to be a rock for our children. We want to be stable, and strong and consistent for them.
And while those are all wonderful things, definitely valid, there’s one little problem: We rarely let our kids see us sweat.
We typically don’t let them see us cry. And we certainly don’t let them know when our feelings are hurt (or that we have feelings at all, other than happiness or perhaps a little frustration from time to time). *wink*
While you may worry that your child lacks empathy, the reality is that most young children are incredibly empathetic. Unfortunately, they don’t always think about how their actions makes someone FEEL. As Holly points out, most of the time when they hurt someone’s feelings, it’s just because they’re acting silly and the behavior escalates and they get carried away.
They don’t truly intend to hurt someone.
But what if, starting at a young age, you could impact their ability to be empathetic for the rest of their lives, simply by letting them see and even talking to them about your feelings?
What if you talked to your kids about something that upset you at work? How something made you feel bad?
What if you let yourself get REALLY vulnerable with your kids?
It seems like something so small and simple, and yet it can have a big impact on children, all the way from toddlers to teens.
While this sort of “emotional coaching” is great to start when your kids are young, it’s never too late to practice.
For example, if you’re helping your teenage child practice hitting a baseball and he keeps correcting and even complaining about the way you throw, tell him if he hurts your feelings.
Just reminding him that mom or dad has feelings to can make him choose his words more carefully.
While you may enjoy having your child look at you as a superhero, he or she needs to remember that you’re human and have feelings, just as he or she does. And allowing yourself to be vulnerable will have a big impact down the road, as he or she enters the workforce or goes off to college. These emotional lessons will help your child to be a more empathetic and compassionate friend, spouse, and employee.
There’s another side effect from letting yourself be vulnerable with your kids, as well: you’ll be giving them permission to have feelings of their own or even cry — without feeling ashamed. And by letting them see you hurting, they’ll also see you picking yourself up again, wiping away the tears, putting a smile on your face and moving forward. In order words, you’ll be modeling and teaching resiliency to your kids.
So through vulnerability, you’ll be modeling resilience as well.
Final Thoughts on How to Make Sure No Child Lacks Empathy
Teaching our children to be empathetic doesn’t have to involve well-thought-out lessons or activities. It doesn’t have to be complicated.
Most children, especially young children, are incredibly empathetic. They just often don’t take into consideration how their words or behaviors impacts others.
Letting your kids see you sweat and having discussions with them where you allow yourself to be vulnerable gives them the emotional coaching they need to turn them into more compassionate, empathetic adults.