Nurturing Empathy in Our Children



Today, parents are encouraged to shadow or constantly monitor their children’s feelings. According to Harvard psychologist Richard Weissbourd, “I hear parents noting kids’ moods all the time” (How do you feel about that? Are you happy? Will that be okay for you?). Weissbourd debates, this practice will cause a negative result of self-centered children. They will never notice the new and lonely classmate, their exhausted mother, or notice that they have hurt a sibling’s feelings. Also, notice the constant news reports on school-bullying in the media.


Weissbourd, who is currently running a USD 2 million worth of research on helping parents teach kids to be more empathic says, it’s important to focus on our child’s feelings. However, there is a huge need to redirect parents’ focus so that they do are not totally on their child’s feelings.


So, how do we go about nurturing empathy in our children? Here are some tips for guidance:


1. Kids are like sponges.They learn by observing you. So be sure to be nice to EVERYONE, including the school bus driver, the waiter at the restaurant, the shop assistant. Make ‘Assalaamu’alaikum’, ‘Thank you’ and ‘Please’ common phrases both at home and everywhere else.


2. Prepare your child’s mind before they go socializing.Simply remind you child to socialize politely and considerately. For example, practice reminding them in the car before they arrive at school, before going to a wedding party, or before they enter a shop to buy something.


3. Be supportive towards other people. Encourage your child to celebrate and give credit to other children’s achievements and hard work, rather than just their own. Always pay attention to how you interact with your friends as well.


4. Save some of the praises.Of course you can tell your child that they did a good job when they do. However, constant praise will lead them to feel judged and they will limit themselves from trying new things because fear of making mistakes.


Share the love. Do not just focus on nurturing your own child. Help share the love by nurturing empathy and selflessness in other children as well. Parents must all observe the common traditional Malay saying, “Jaga anak orang macam anak sendiri” in order to create better environments for our children, now and in the future


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