Sunday, November 20, 2011

Kindness and Empathy

My apologies for not posting these two blogs on time--in line with the column in the Ladysmith News.  Although, I will be 'cramming' in three posts in the next three days, I am plunging ahead because the topic is so very important.
In these weeks before Thanksgiving, we will talk about raising kind and empathetic children. Doing this goes beyond raising a child who mimics the words, ‘thank you’ when prompted by a parent or teacher.
I have often heard parents say things like “pet the puppy nicely”, or “be gentle with the baby”. However to teach children to be kind and empathetic, we need to begin with kindness and empathy toward our own children and each other.
Mothers of infants begin right after birth to read the emotional cues and empathize with their infant. You may hear a mom saying to her fussy baby, “Your tummy hurts, what can I do to help you. Does it feel good when I move your little legs up and down?”
You can do this all the time with your infant: putting your words in place of the cues baby gives you. Here is an example of empathizing with a 3-month-old who is beginning to smile and laugh. “You are so happy! Did you like it when Daddy blew raspberries on your cute, little belly? So fun. Do it again, Daddy!”
Later in development when your one-year-old is screaming because his favorite food has fallen out of his reach onto the floor, you can put words to his feelings and give him a strategy for coping, “What happened? Timmy’s cookie fell on the floor and he is angry. Tell daddy, I’m mad! I need a new cookie.” In this example the parent is responsible for both sides of the conversation.  He says what Timmy might say if he could talk, and he tells Timmy that daddy understands the dilemma and will help
What did Timmy learn by this experience? He learned that his dad has empathy for his feelings about the loss of the cookie. What if dad did something else? What if dad heard Timmy screaming and simply gave Timmy a new cookie. What would Timmy learn by this? He still may learn that dad is kind and will give him a new cookie. However, he could also learn that if he screams he gets rewarded. The most appropriate response gives Timmy a rich interchange of language and empathy that will help him take the next step in his own development as a kind and empathetic human being.


Great big turkey
Great big turkey
Hear him gobble
Watch him wobble.
Running all around
Making such a sound
Great big turkey
Great big turkey.

tune:  Frere Jacques
Pantomime motions

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