Teaching children empathy and helping their emotional intelligence

United States
March 15, 2009 10:09pm CST
There is a great deal of chatter in the educational community about teaching empathy to our children today. There is a need for it. This has been a topic that has been at the heart of a lot of debates as to why children are growing up without compassion, perhaps somewhat more "violent", and even without regard for their fellow human being. It is by no means the end all and be all of the debate, it is but one facet of it. It's something spoken about a great deal as it relates to emotional intelligence. In giving this some thought over the last few days, and upon review of several articles I decided that perhaps we could engage in a discussion here as to how to develop empathy in our children, and help increase their emotional intelligence. I have provided several links on the subject of empathy and children, as well as emotional intelligence to get us started. How do you feel as a parent and/or teacher we can best teach our children empathy and help their emotional intelligence? Would you feel comfortable with your child's school implementing a program to help in this area? How do as a parent plan to teach your child or how are you teaching your child empathy? Do you feel your child has a good emotional intelligence or do you feel you need to help raise it? Namaste-Anora The following are not referral links, but links on empathy and emotional intelligence as they relate to this discussion: http://www.nwrel.org/archive/sirs/7/cu13.html http://www.democracycellproject.net/blog/archives/2008/03/teaching_empath.html http://www.eqi.org/eitoc.htm http://www.unh.edu/emotional_intelligence/ http://www.queendom.com/tests/access_page/index.htm?idRegTest=1121
1 person likes this
9 responses
@katb28 (225)
16 Mar 09
hi there with my 2 children i have compleatly diffrent ends of the spectrum my little girl who is 7 is extramly sensetive to other peoples needs and feelings and is very compasionate, but my little boy who is eight has high functioning autisam and adhd so he only understands extream emotions eaither good or bad and extream facial expresions although he is the most loving child you could come across in his own way but doesnt know how to effectively express how he feels yet then he will go and do something that realy supprises me like the other day he donnated some of his own pocket money to charity at school because he thought that it was unfaire that we have clean water and other kids dont but again its not because he feels empathy but because his logic tells him its an injustice, i try my best to help him by asking how would he feel if some one did or said that to him when he does something inappropriate but its very difficult at times so if anyone has any advice i would love to here it
1 person likes this
• United States
17 Mar 09
Autistic children are something else, very special in their own way. I'm not sure how old your son is, but it sounds like you are doing some good things already such as asking him to think about the other person. Social skills such as this one seem to be difficult to teach, yet I've seen them worked on. My area of speciality is LD/BD, but I've worked with young (kindergarten) autistic students a few times. I just work on a lot of repetition, such as if they have an issue grabbing a toy when it's not their turn I'll remove the toy, hand it back to the person who had it and ask the child "John, remember we don't grab, we need to ask, because that is the nice thing to do. Can you ask Sue for the toy". Then we work on asking, the other child giving, and the first child saying thank you. It's almost, for lack of a better example at the moment, like working with a child who is age 2-3. I'm not saying they are not smart children, just that the social behaviors are generally several years behind and so you'd use the same techniques you would have used at that age with a regular developing child. I hope that all made sense. Namaste-Anora
@katb28 (225)
17 Mar 09
hi there hes 8 years old and exceptionaly clever he likes to read things like dictionarys and encylapidias and sciance books anything that is factual even the back of food packets, but he wont entertain storys he likes having them read to him but he wont read storys himself, he is also compleatly unmedicated instead he is diet restricted so his tantrums when he looses his temper are controlable, i also use a lot of things like social storys to try to teach him the right way to react and i also play games with him where i make faces and he has to guess what emotion i am expressing he also has a thoughts and feelings book where he can write down how he feels to get the emotions out, a lot of the repetative "bad behaviours" i found so far that all i can be is concistant in how i dicipline him and try to keep his routine as structured as possible but we still encounter problems when we take him somewhere new or with lots of people and noise he doesnt like that at all in your responce you said what age kids you work with but i am in the uk so didnt realy understand how old are they in years? and do you work with children with learning and behavural difficulties?
• United States
17 Mar 09
Yes, I work with students who have learning disorders and behavioral disorders, but have worked with a few children with autism in various practicums and student teaching posts throughout my master work. I'm currently finishing my masters in special education. It really sounds like you are doing a great deal of good things as a parent. I'm not familiar with the programs in the UK, but perhaps you could find a school program that would work with him on social skills, or put it into his IEP. Do you all call them Individualized Education Plans over there? Namaste-Anora
@mansha (6301)
• India
16 Mar 09
I guess best way to teach empathy and emotional intelligene development is to let a child bond with animals. Pets are a great stress breakers and wonderful with the kids. A child not only develops empathy towards other species but also gets a fair excersise too. Most important ios the role model's behavior which inculcates the child with emotional appreciation for his surroundings.
• United States
17 Mar 09
You know, that's a good idea. I've heard of animals being used with those who suffer from PTSD, so why not use them to help build empathy? Wonderful idea. Thanks for sharing. Namaste-Anora
1 person likes this
@mansha (6301)
• India
17 Mar 09
I am glad you liked it
@sandymay48 (2031)
• Canada
16 Mar 09
I think it would be a wonderful idea to teach empathy in school as well as spread it around the media for those who dont go to school...It should be a huge much needed message everywhere. If the media can make public, everything that goes wrong, they should also help make our society right. I have seen way too much in the way of senseless acts by children or young adults. It really makes me wonder where all the desensitazation is coming from. Acts of bodily and emotional abuse to fellow piers and others with no signs of apparent remorse or guilt. Things I dont recall happening on nearly as large a scale during my teenage years. There are still a lot of well adjusted, emotionally secure children but also a lot that arent. Im not sure where the fault lies in such a drastic change. Perhaps a much freer and lenient society, freer rights, less time for parents to spend quality time with their children. But all in all, I agree that something needs to be done!
1 person likes this
• United States
17 Mar 09
It does make you wonder just where and when our desensitazation came from, you know. It is my hopes we'll begin to see more of these types of programs offered across the board, and even at the adult level to help us all become more compassionate people. Namaste-Anora
• Canada
17 Mar 09
I couldnt agree more. There needs to be more empathy at all levels. Some stuff just shocks me and I wonder how a human could act such a way....It really bothers me too that people are so judgemental of others...I really bad trait.
• India
17 Mar 09
ya its much needed..
1 person likes this
• United States
17 Mar 09
Thanks for responding! Namaste-Anora
@kissieme (777)
• Philippines
16 Mar 09
Hi, anora... wow! this is a great topic. I love it... I might not be a mom yet nor a conventional teacher but I am interested in things like these. I volunteer in teaching many kids in urban poor areas and I also teach online so I kinda go for these topics to aid me in my teaching and to learn how to be a good parent someday. This is good for kids. I'm a teacher online I teach some life situations to help develop my students' emotional intelligence though it's not really a part of teachign English online lol. But still I noticed that some of my students needed it. So I incorporate that part in teaching. I just hope that when they implement teaching this in school they do it in fun ways to get the kids interest and develop compassion in kids in their own pace. And not give the children an impression that they have to learn this as compulsary or they might expect an opposite result (hope not)... The program is not to change the children's personality but just to develop empathy and emotional intelligence to aid them how to handle every situations they might encounter while growing up. Be able to consider the pros and cons and the consequences of their acts and decisions. How they will affect other people... hmmm.. as for parents, I think introducing a pet to a kid and letting them learn how to take care of it can be a part the kid's learning process. That's how my parents did for me and my sibs lol... the only thing that my parents always sigh about is that all of us often bring a stray sick cat or kitten at home hahaha. our home can be considered cats and dogs shelter... including chickens lmao...
1 person likes this
• United States
17 Mar 09
That's awesome. I'm glad to see another taking these things and putting them out for students to pick up. And I love your suggestions. Thanks for responding. Namaste-Anora
@maximax8 (31192)
• United Kingdom
16 Mar 09
I am a parent and a primary school teacher. I try to teach my toddler son to stroke my dogs. He has began hugging his soft toy animals so that is great. I think that is is important to read good quality picture books and to children and get them to talk about the feelings of the characters. It is superb to teach children to be kind to one another. The web sites could be helpful to many people. I would feel pleased about my son's play school teaching him emotional intelligence at his level.
1 person likes this
• United States
17 Mar 09
Thanks for sharing. Aww, I love when children begin doing those things with their toys. It really begins to transfer to real life situations. Our son was the same way. He started out before his baby sister arrived hugging, holding, and feeding his stuffed animals. Once she got her he was very gentle with her, still is. Namaste-Anora
• United States
16 Mar 09
Well for me personally I think it would be a good idea to have such a program implemented, because often times children whose not taught how to care about how someone else feels. I think we have a generation of kids who don't care about anyone or anything. I think it will help children learn about feels and how not to hurt other people and to be considerate, because we teach our kids everything else why not teach them empathy.
1 person likes this
• United States
17 Mar 09
Thank you for your thoughtful response. Namaste-Anora
@deejean06 (1953)
• United States
16 Mar 09
Hi Anora - Luckily for me I am not at this stage in teaching my child - he's way too young. However we have had bouts of temper tantrums which I quickly quashed. I don't even want to foster that behavior at any age. As nice as this sounds I don't think it will work. I believe this has to come from the top down - from the parents to the children. Did you ever try to cross the street and no one will let you? Did you ever try to change lanes while driving and have the car in the next lane speed up so you can't change? These are just a few examples of how people do not have any empathy for each other anymore. And parents learn from their children in every way. If a parent treats another parent or another adult in a demeaning way, then that's what the child learns. If you look out for your neighbor or are simply courteous outside of your home, then that's what the child learns.
• United States
17 Mar 09
I agree that we definately learn from our parents early on in life. Part of the thing that education such as this can do in a school setting is back up what parents are already teaching their child at home. And if we're about being compassionate then I think we could do this everywhere in our life. Thank you very much for your thoughtful response. Namaste-Anora
@paula27661 (15898)
• Australia
16 Mar 09
I am not a teacher but as a parent I recognize the importance of emotional intelligence, in fact I deem it more important than intellectual I.Q. My daughter is seven and I do feel that for her age she does show considerable maturity at times and she is very sensitive of her own and others' feelings; I don't take all the credit for this, I think it is mostly just her nature because her dad is a very sensitive and naturally caring man. I think that to implement such a program in schools would be a great idea and I would be all for it. We always teach our child to see things from others' perspective and to put her self in other people's shoes. As an example we sponsor a little girl from Uganda and my daughter writes to her regularly. We make her aware of how different her life is compared to our sponsor child and to recognise how hard life is for children living in a village in Uganda and to appreciate what she has. I do try whenever I can to try and make her see things from a different perspective especially when she encounters people that are somewhat hard to like. I do try and make her see that perhaps the individual has insecurities for whatever reason although I admit there are times when I struggle to empathise myself! It's your general attitude to life that is the greatest teacher for your children and I hope that we are heading in the right direction.
1 person likes this
• United States
17 Mar 09
I really like your idea of having children write to other children in other countries. It gives them a chance to value all life. I think you are right, it is our attitude! Thank you very much for your thoughtful response. Namaste-Anora