As a little girl my most beloved grade school book was Charlotte's Web. The story was touching as it showed true friendship between Charlotte the spider and Wilbur the pig. Charlotte was loyal to Wilbur to the very end and Wilbur never forgot her short presence in his life. It's a classic tale of friendship, yes… but also empathy. Charlotte put herself in Wilbur's position and knew his potential untimely demise at the hands of the farmer could be prevented if she intervened selflessly on his behalf. We know if she was in his place she would hope he'd do the same for her. Which we know by Wilbur's loving character he surely would have.
When it comes to our children I believe any good parent would wish for the gift of empathy for their child. Empathy in children leads to becoming adults who care for others, who can make decisions with careful thought… they are better equipped to decide what is best for themselves but also weigh their choices out of respect toward others feelings… yet in that, to not go the other extreme and become people pleasers. We all want our children to grow up to be strong… to be resilient against bullies, against peer pressure and narcissistic sociopaths. Yet in that we don't want them to become hardened like some people in the world… we want them to have a healthy balance… and realize that although there are a few bad apples out there, for the most part people are good… and it's important to have empathy toward others.
A narcissistic sociopathic parent typically chooses between his children. He may make one the golden child (preferred), one the black sheep (discarded) and any others may fall by the wayside. A sociopathic parent doesn't have empathy… it's like he has a glitch in his system. He is not capable of love and placing himself in someone else's shoes…. to imagine what they must feel when enduring a hurt, offense, loss, etc. Since he's not capable of showing empathy his children suffer as well. This is why it's so essential for the healthy functioning parent to teach empathy as much as possible… in the hopes the sociopath's harmful behaviors can be overridden by the healthy functioning parent.
Here are three tips in helping instill empathy in your child…
1. Read To Your Child:
Think back on the childhood stories you read and I bet you'll see some similar themes in what they taught… empathy. Charlotte's Web, The Velveteen Rabbit, The Little House, The Giving Tree are just a few that you can read to your child aloud at bedtime and then discuss. Encourage your child to think about the individual characters and how they likely feel about their experiences… ask them questions to get them thinking: "How do you think Wilbur felt when Charlotte died?" Doing this opens the door for kids to go on to more in depth discussions related to hurts, loss and death.
2. Stop Rewarding:
You may think you read that wrong. You may be thinking… "What? Stop rewarding good behavior?" It's fine to reward a child now and then… but to go and reward a child for helping someone else, for doing something kind, is just plain counterintuitive. It's telling them: "Here's a reward for what you did that should have been from the heart." Rewarding children for doing acts of kindness toward others sets up expectation i.e.; let's make a deal type thinking and "you owe me", versus giving freely as we should do and as God would want.
3. Model Empathy:
Think of ways you can model acts of kindness toward others that involve your children. Maybe it's putting together small bags of goodies for his or her classmates at Christmas or "just because". Maybe it's baking brownies for your mail carrier along with a sweet handwritten note. Perhaps it's washing your elderly neighbors car or planting flowers in the empty pots on their porch. Think of small ways you can add beauty to someone else's day and then involve your child. Afterward talk about how much it made your neighbor smile and how nice it is to help others.
© gps-gracepowerstrength.blogspot.com ~ 2014
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