Character Education: Teaching Empathy

December character trait is EMPATHY. Empathy is the action of understanding or being aware of another person’s thoughts, feelings and or experiences. One of the most powerful ways to teach children empathy is to be empathetic yourself. While having patience with small children can be difficult, it’s important to stay as calm as you can when they misbehave.  As children get older, they can learn empathy from you as you express interest in their experiences and listen carefully as they talk, reflecting back to them what they say and asking them questions that help them clarify their feelings and thoughts. As their own empathy grows because of your modeling, they’ll be more able to relate deeply to others.

(BYU Magazine, 2007)

Quick Tips to Teach Empathy

  1. Kindness is “caught not taught”. Children will copy YOU! They watch to see how you treat others.
  2. Praise your child’s small steps…sharing a toy, getting a band aide, noticing another’s feelings etc.
  3. Encourage your child to think of others.
  4. Give your child jobs. Research shows that as your child takes on simple responsibilities they learn about caring and altruism. Feeding the dog, setting the table, picking up after him/herself etc.
  5. Involve your child in charitable activities.  Donate toys, books. Send a picture to Grandparents, a sick friend or a teacher. Prepare a meal and deliver to someone ill or with a new baby etc. Explain your helping behavior.

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