Empathy? How important? Are we teaching it to our children?

Unconditional Empathy

I see your point. I understand how you feel.  How often have you heard that?  That person gets the way you think, but does that mean there is compassion for your feelings or experiences? Do they care about you?

I feel your pain.  I understand and feel the emotions you are experiencing deeply. I feel with you, not necessarily for you, but it’s a start.

I understand how you think and feel and I want to help you. What can I do?

These three situations all describe a type of empathy, and the goal of having empathy or compassion is to get to this statement: I get it. I feel your suffering. What can I do for you?

All of these are described in the now renowned book of 1996, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, by Daniel Goleman.  In the book, Goleman describes Emotional Intelligence as “the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships.”

The book in its debut was somewhat controversial, pop psychology, critics claimed.  As time has passed, Goleman’s ideas have become mainstream. There is no doubt that emotional well-being plays a huge role in well –being, success and academic achievement for children.

Empathy is incredibly important for children to learn. They can develop these instincts and improve their social relationships, which includes how to deal with the mean girls and bullying of all types. Some personalities innately tend to empathy more than others, but it can be learned by anyone. This kind of education can help in relationships and understanding those who are different or diverse.

As parents, teachers, and adults, we model for children. Our actions speak and those actions give the opportunity to teach lessons. Children see everything. Realizing it or not, their brains are like recorders who will later play back your behavior. Think of this as you talk or discipline your children, or even when you talk with your friends. Gossip?  Put others down to make your self feel better or superior? All of these are teaching moments.

Don’t let an emotion pass because you are uncomfortable with it. When your child is mad, sad, glad, afraid, surprised or frustrated, talk about these emotions and how it feels. Don’t let it pass. Discussion will allow the emotions to be acceptable.

Take the opportunity to teach and above all, model by your own behavior how you should treat others.  Speak with kindness and compassion. And then reach out and help someone, even something small.

Actions do speak louder than words. Teach empathy.

Blog on Emotional Intelligence:


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