CULTIVATE EMPATHY IN CHILDREN
Children are like a blank page. They will become what we write on them. The major part of their personality is formed by the way they are brought up. Most of us want our children to be intelligent. We direct all our efforts towards that goal. We load them with information, teach them high-level maths, and make them solve difficult puzzles. In this process, little do we emphasise on developing their emotional quotient: having feeling and empathy towards others.
This discussion aims at looking at 8 ways to cultivate empathy in children.
Gone are the days when people with high IQ, ambition, and ability to dominate were thought to be best suited for leadership roles? The professional world has realised a true leader should rather have a high level of emotional intelligence. They must have empathy for the team members.
Empathy is important in personal relationships as well. Empathetic human beings can nurture and maintain healthy relationships with others. This quotient plays a pivotal role in shaping a person’s life in a healthy way.
The 8 ways to cultivate empathy in children are as follows:
- Be an example: Sometimes, parents and grown-ups do not realize they are being watched and followed by the children. We might give them many pieces of advice, but if we do not follow them ourselves, they would never take us seriously. The best way to inculcate a value or behavior in a child is to follow it ourselves.
- Read and show: Read out stories and show them animations/short movies which glorify empathy. In this age of cut-throat competition, children might become engrossed with self-thought and might not learn to understand and care about others’ feelings. They have to be taught the real heroes are those who care for others.
- Be empathetic: When children receive empathy themselves, they become empathetic, spontaneously. Instead of asking them not to behave or feel in a certain way, ask them why they feel or act that way. For example, instead of telling them, “Do not be afraid of the dark”, ask them, “Why are you afraid of the dark?” Understand where the fear stems from and address it. If they are not ready to study, try and talk about it. Find out what makes them disinterested.
- Praise them: Every time your child displays empathy, praise him or her. The child will thus realize it is the right thing to do and slowly internalize the trait. Motivate them to help a friend in need, not pity or laugh at friends who are struggling with something but rather understand their plight and help them.
- Say ‘we’: Using the words ‘we’, ‘us’, ‘our’ establishes a ‘we-feeling’. “Let us finish the homework now”, “We would solve this problem”,-these statements make them feel you are with them in it, and you understand them. They would be quick to adopt this behavior.
- Role-play: Children adopt social behaviour largely by role-playing. When they imitate their teachers, they realise what a teacher’s role is, how should the teacher behave, and feel. The more they role-play, the better they understand others’ views. It is also a good way of understanding how differences in opinion or conflicts can be resolved in various ways.
- Service to the community: Involve your children in community service, of any scale. Show them, not everyone is privileged. A lot of people are deprived or are in crisis for different reasons. Make your child help them in whatever little way possible.
- Understand perspectives: While we teach the next generation social, ethical, and moral values and the concepts of good and bad, we must also subtly make them understand the diversities that exist on this planet. People have different backgrounds, mindsets, and natures. In life, we would come across these differences frequently. We need to understand and deal with them in a constructive way.
Above all, the best way to cultivate empathy in children is to make them socialise. The more they socialise in different social circles, the more they would learn to empathise. In this era of technological advancement and automation, the scope for social interactions gets limited day by day. We need to deliberately create this scope for our children.
Empathy goes a long way. If the above practices are incorporated in the rearing of children, it could be extremely beneficial in building it.