Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kid Succeed in Our All-About-Me World
by Dr. Michele Borba
Why does Empathy in Children matter??
For one, bullying is increasing. One study showed youth bullying increasing a whopping 52% in just 4 years (2003-2007) and we now see evidence of bullying starting in children as young as three. (study by Shetgiri, Lin, Flores, “Is There a Bullying Epidemic”, 2001). Another 2014 study found that cyberbullying incidents tripled within a single year. (McAfee, “Teens and the Screen Study”, 2014). Peer cruelty has become so intense that it affects kids’ mental health: one in five middle school students contemplate suicide as a solution to peer cruelty. (Hinduja, Patchin, “Bullying, Cyberbullying, and Suicide”, 2010). pxv
Roots of Empathy founder Mary Gordon: “As important as it is to learn to read, it’s also important to learn to relate. Without emotional literacy, to understand our feelings, to have words for them, and be able to understand others’ feelings, we’re basically all islands. So we teach kids emotional literacy: the words to understand what you feel based on what you’ve witnessed with babies.” P6
Turns out that kids schooled in feelings are smarter, nicer, happier, and more resilient than children who are less literate in their Emotion ABCs. (Arsenio, Cooperman, Lover, “Affective Predictors of Preschoolers’ Aggression and Peer Acceptance”, 2001). Scientists have shown that kids who are able to read feelings from nonverbal cues are better adjusted emotionally, more popular, more outgoing, and more sensitive in general. (Goleman, “Emotional Intelligence”, 1995. Emotionally attuned kids are also physically healthier and score higher academically than kids who aren’t coached to consider the feelings and needs of others. (Gottman, “The Heart of Parenting”, 1997). P8
How to refuse temptations and stick up for your beliefs (p36)
R = Review who you are – does this go against our family rules or what I stand for?
E = Express your belief – “it’s not my thing”, “it’s not nice”, “my mom will ground me if she finds out”
F = Firm voice – use a strong tone to get your point across
U = Use strong posture – use assertive body language so you are taken seriously (this means eye contact, stand tall, shoulders back)
S = Say no and don’t give in – it’s not your job to change someone else’s mind but to stick to your beliefs
E = Exit – sometimes the best option is to leave the scene
Top 5 Things to Understand about Develop a Moral Identity: (p44)
1. Moral identity can inspire empathy, compassion and motivate caring behaviour
2. To respond empathetically, kids must value other people’s thoughts and feelings
3. Overpraising can make kids competitive, tear others down, and diminish empathy
4. Entitling and overvaluing kids may increase narcissism and hamper moral identity
5. If a child can imagine himself as a caring person, he is more likely to care about others.
How to cultivate empathetic reading in children: (p83)
Use shoes – when you have finished reading a book (eg Charlotte’s Web), print each character’s name on a sticky note and stick them on some shoes. Kids then choose a shoe and pretend to be the character.
The ability to manage emotions is a better predictor of academic achievement than IQ, it dramatically increases your adult child’s health and financial stability and it strengthens resilience so your child can bounce back from setbacks. (Lehrer, “Don’t”, 2009)
Ways to weave kindness back into our hurried lives: (p130)
1. Model kindness – look for simple ways for your child to see you extend kindness
2. Expect kindness in others – parents who express their views about unkind behaviour and explain why they feel that way tend to have kids who adopt those views
3. Value kindness – listen to your words to see the split between the focus on achievement and proportion and on kindness and caring
4. Reflect on kindness – ask more questions to elicit your child’s thoughts, feelings and experiences. Instead of asking “what did you do today”, ask “what’s something kind you did today”
5. Explain kindness – tell who was the recipient, identify the kind act done, and point out how the gesture affected the recipient.
Ways to help kids practice kindness (p134)
· Walk the talk – kids learn best through example
· Surround your child with good examples – point out coaches, teachers, babysitters, relatives, friends so are good examples of kindness
· Show the impact – if they see the impact, children are more likely to repeat a kind gesture
· Pose the right questions – help kids recognize the effect kindness has on them and on others
· Do a weekly kindness ritual as a family – look for ways too something kind together eg leave happy notes on candy canes in neighbours’ mailboxes
· Put away your wallet – reinforce the action as soon as it happens with reassuring words but use words not rewards to praise. Eg “you always ask Gramma how she’s feeling. It makes me so happy knowing how kind you are.”
Ideas to spark Kindness
Secret Kindness Buddies (p136)
Each person in the family pulls a name from a basket and then must perform a secret act of kindness toward that person each day during the holidays. Deeds may not be purchased but must come straight from the heart. (eg breakfast in bead, pick a flower bouquet, fix a broken toy)
Create a Kindness Jar (p136)
Us a large transparent container and add a penny each time someone does a kind act. The honoree is the recipient of the kind act (not the giver). The receiver reports the giver’s name and deed (eg Larry was kind because he folded up my blanket). This focuses on the recipient, not giving the giver a chance to brag or expect rewards. When filled, donate the jar of pennies with the kids deciding where the money should go.
Make a Kindness Wall (p137)
Record acts of kindness on Post-it notes and stick them on a wall.
Create a Kindness Centerpiece (p137)
Gather your kids and brainstorm kind deeds to do for anyone. Then, cut 15-20 coloured paper shapes (can use holiday themed shapes) and tape each shape to a pipe cleaner On each shape, write one deed and decorate with markers, stickers, etc. Put the pipe cleaners in a vase to make a bouquet. Each morning, invite family members to pull a kindness deed from the vase and then do that deed for someone that day. Members can share their experience a dinner.
Watch movies/read books that inspire kindness (p139)
Some suggestions: The Kindness Quilt by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace, Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson
Kindness is strengthened by practice but doesn’t have to cost a dime, take much time or require any particular talent. Like any exercise program, regular workouts are required to reap the gains. (p140)
Sow a thought and you reap an act; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny. – Charles Reade