You can assume that your child wants and needs to emotionally connect with you on a regular basis. That is a developmental fact based upon solid research. Children need to feel understood and empathy is your most potent way of making that emotional connection with him.
Listen for the emotion
As a starting point, you want to begin listening for the emotion in your child's interaction with you. It's not always easy to pinpoint because we tend to focus on the content of a conversation instead of the emotion. But, if you think about it, the feeling behind the words is usually at the heart of what we want others to really understand.
In order to gain the perspective of another person and explore the quality of empathy, middle school students do an exercise that helps their development of core values in this video from The Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values.
Students choose an actual shoe and imagine the life of that shoe. As they write about the shoe—figuratively “walking” in those shoes—they reflect on how the experience helped them become more understanding and compassionate toward others.
Donna Wilson and Marcus Conyers, brain-based teaching program developers and authors, share the exciting possibilities for improving student learning by teaching young people about how their brains learn.
Empathy is at the heart of what it means to be human. It’s a foundation for acting ethically, for good relationships of many kinds, for loving well, and for professional success. And it’s key to preventing bullying and many other forms of cruelty.
Empathy begins with the capacity to take another perspective, to walk in another’s shoes. But it is not just that capacity. Salespeople, politicians, actors and marketers are often very skilled at taking other perspectives but they may not care about others.
Con men and torturers take other perspectives so they can exploit people’s weaknesses. Empathy includes valuing other perspectives and people. It’s about perspective-taking and compassion.
How can parents’ cultivate empathy? The following are five guideposts based on research and the wisdom of practitioners.
1. Empathize with your child and model empathy for others...
2. Make caring for others a priority and set high ethical expectations...
3. Provide opportunities for children to practice empathy...
4. Expand your child’s circle of concern...
5. Help children develop self-control and manage feelings effectively...
Richard Weissbourd and Stephanie Jones Making Caring Common Project, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Empathy, Race and Trials - the downside of unconscious empathy
I've been thinking this week about unconscious empathy.
Unconscious empathy is when I feel an immediate connection with a person - maybe because I see or hear something about them that reminds me of myself. This kind of empathy is not intentional; and because it's not intentional I believe that it's just too easy for me to make mistakes when doing it.
Guest blogger Lori Desautels translates Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs into a blueprint for classroom practice that can set the stage with comfort, care and self-reflection to optimize brain-compatible learning.
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