I was invited to the Hasbro Toy Fair and while I got to get a preview of the fabulous toys coming to market in 2017, they also invited Michele Borba to speak to our group and share simple ways to foster empathy in your child. Toys can be a means to sharing, learning, caring and learning but without empathy a child is not complete.
Emotional empathy is being able to read others emotions. Are your kids able to tell when another person is happy, scared, confused or excited and then the appropriate reaction to that emotion?
Here are simple ways to foster empathy in your child according to Michele Borba.
Set Unplug Times
The average kid looks at a screen for 7 1/2 hours a day. I know my kids are well within this range from what they see at school, home and then reading digitally at night. My kids need to get their face out of the screen and have actual face time…. not digital face time.
Set no screen times. No screens at dinner rule or now screens until homework is done, chores are done and they have spent 45 minutes outside, for example.
Look at their eyes.
It will help with self confidence in a child. It will make them hold their head up and engage with you.
My favorite quote from her speech: The gateway to empathy is realizing the other person exists.
[bctt tweet=”‘The gateway to empathy is realizing that the other person exists.’ @micheleborba #unselfie ” username=”SarahBMock”]
ALL OF THIS! Children need to learn this they need to be taught but I also believe that there are a lot of adults who need to learn this basic lesson. How often has someone walked into the coffee shop and you avoided eye contact? When was the last time you locked eyes with someone on the subway or bus, and smiled? Or when was the last time you acknowledged the mother with the child who was throwing a tantrum and didn’t judge her but gave her a nod of understanding?
Set an example for your children
It would be nice if you were the example but you can also point out examples. Read them books that model empathy. Hold them in your arms as you read the books and feel the emotions that come from their body as you read. Discuss the books after you are done. Ask age appropriate, open ended questions about the books that was just read to see if they truly understood what the story was about. Ask how they have experienced the emotions in the book. Had they seen others with these emotions? Start the conversation.
Here are some examples of books that provoke emotions and foster empathy.
Point out good news
There is so much exposure to bad news or tragedy in the news coverage. Seek out and find the good news of the day. It could be something as simple as asking what was three good things that happened to you today? Or who overcame something today and had a good day. Give an example from your day of what was good that happened. It could be something you witnessed, experienced to heard of.
Make it a habit
Don’t be once and done with empathy. Make it part of who they are and how they function. Don’t make them want to be good, show good or experience good for no other reason than it is GOOD. Don’t do it for a sticker, cookie or a trophy. That is not the point of empathy.
Simple Ways To Model the Habit
- Family Kindness Jar. Write the kindness they they see around them on the pieces of paper and then read them out loud. Review them from time to time. Pull them out again when there is a seemingly lack of kindness in a day.
- Develop a Family Mantra. Make a simple statement of what you and your family stand for. Repeat the mantra often and at different teaching points throughout the day.
- 2 Kind Rule. Every day you are to say or do two kind things for others. ** These can then go in the Family Kindness Jar. See how easy that was!?
What do you define as success?
Are you teaching your kids they only have worth when they get straight A’s, make MVP or have the most ‘likes’ on a photos? How much weight do you place on kindness, goodness and empathy. Are your kids able to define themselves as good friends, kind people and compassionate to others different than themselves? I encourage you to change the narrative and include kindness, friendship and goodness in how you define success with your children.
Give them the opportunity to be good and empathetic
- Charity box. Set a box out for gently used books, clothes and household items. Once the box is full, take it to your local shelter, community center or charity. Don’t have mom take it. Take it as a family and have everyone witness giving as a family.
- Give Back Project. Service projects that you can do as a family. Park clean up days, reading books to nursing home patients, volunteering at the animal shelter, helping at a Habitat for Humanity build. Show your children that service matters and there are other in need, other than themselves.