How to Teach Children to Value Others
Empathy is one of those rare qualities, something that almost everyone wants but few know how to actually give or receive. In a world that emphasizes self-gratification, empathy is in short supply but high demand. This is all the more reason to teach the next generation what it means to have empathy for those around them. This is paramount to teaching children to value others.
What is empathy?
Many people confuse sympathy and empathy, but they’re two different values. Empathy isn’t just the ability to understand someone’s feelings. Criminals often take advantage of people by appearing to understand their feelings and subsequently gaining their trust.
Empathy is much more than that. It’s not only the ability to recognize how someone feels, but also to value and respect those feelings. It means treating others with kindness, dignity and understanding.
Children need to see adults show empathy, so they’ll begin to value others. While some children are gifted with naturally sensitive hearts, in most cases, children need to see the adults around them model empathy.
Teach your child to value others.
It starts with how parents relate to their children. Parents who show interest in the things that matter to their children and respond to emotions in a positive, caring way are teaching the skill of empathy. Meeting emotional needs is one example. When children get their emotional needs met, two things happen.
First, they learn to meet the emotional needs of others, and second, they’re anchored in what they receive. This means they’re secure enough to give to others when the need arises. But first, they need to receive – an empty pitcher can’t fill a cup. Talk to children about emotional needs so they understand their own needs and those of others.
Many adults find it difficult to talk about emotional needs or anything to do with emotions. As a result, they tiptoe through their lives around the topic of emotions. These are people who don’t know how to handle the emotions of others and are uncomfortable with any situation that requires an emotional response.
Sometimes, they’re afraid of their own emotions because they’ve never learned how to deal with emotional needs. It’s a good idea to talk to children about emotions and how other people experience them. In this regard, you need to give emotions names (e.g., jealousy, anger, love, etc.) and teach your children that they’re normal. They need to understand them in order to manage them.
Talk to them about how to handle emotions in a positive way and point out situations in which other people are experiencing emotions. Teach them to respect the emotions of others and show them how to act in a situation where an emotional response is required. Look for real-life situations to practice empathy.
You’re their best example
There’s nothing like a real-life example to model what you’re teaching. Look for situations that affect someone else and talk to your children about what it means to the people involved and how they might feel. For example, if you see an ambulance speeding by, talk about how the sick person’s family members might feel.
Younger children, in particular, love to pretend to be someone or something else. You can use these fun moments to teach empathy. Have your children play the role of someone else. This could be a character in a book or on TV, or even someone they know who’s been through a significant experience lately.
This will focus their attention on the emotions another person might experience when they’re in a particular situation. You can ask them to make faces that reflect their character’s feelings.
Teach your children the difference between right and wrong from an early age. This will help your children build a good internal moral compass that will guide them to make good decisions, as well as understand and value others.
In situations that require a decision, help your children see how our choices and behavior affect others. Talk to them about how bad actions hurt others and help them see the harm it can cause. Then they’ll be able to appreciate others and themselves.