Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Teaching Empathy

Something that we have been struggling with Jonah, is teaching him empathy. This is a very difficult thing for any toddler to understand, but also important as we deal with issues such as hitting and sharing.

A great book that I've been using to help Jonah understand empathy, is called Smile Baby, Smile! by Moira Butterfield and Rosalind Beardshaw.
 The book is about a very cranky baby. No matter what anyone does to make Baby happy, Baby cries. While reading the book, I talk to Jonah about what could make a baby cry. Why would the baby be sad? What can we do to make baby happy? At the end of the story, when Baby's issues are resolved, we talk again about what the family did to try to make Baby happy.

We then talk about things that make our family members sad or upset, and what we can do to help. We also talk about why Evie cries sometimes. Sometimes it's because she's tired or hungry, but other times it's because Jonah pushes her or won't share a toy.

And of course, the best way to teach about empathy, is to lead by example. Parenting with empathy can be a struggle at times, as parenting can be no matter what methods are used, but if Jonah sees Mommy and Daddy reacting to his or Evie's emotional needs, and understanding what the problem is, then Jonah will learn to resolve issues in this way as well.

How have you taught your child empathy? What age do you believe children are capable of understanding and displaying empathy?

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