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Teaching Your Kids to Act with Empathy

Posted by James Lehman, MSW

I think one of the most important things to introduce to our kids is the idea of empathy. Empathy says you should visit people when they’re sick in hospitals. Empathy says that we should want to feed the hungry. Certainly over the last 15 or 20 years, for a vast majority of the population, this quality has been lost or clouded over by other things. Over the last couple of years, with the sharing of the pain that we’ve felt nationally, we’ve also seen an elevated sense of empathy, too.  People know what it’s like for the people who have nothing, because many have less.

There are a lot of creative ways to teach empathy to your children. It’s the whole idea of practicing that art of compassion, of really stimulating that part of your kid’s brain. It’s important for them to learn that there are other people in this world and that it’s good to share; it’s good to give out of our own hearts.  I’ve known families who have taken their kids down to homeless shelters to serve meals. Not only is that a way for the family to give back in gratitude for what they’ve received, but it’s also a way to teach their child that if you have something, you should share with others who have less.

So, there are things you can do for others who are in need. Tell your kids to always hold the door. There are also little things like that you can teach your child—the basic decent things in society that have been lost—like saying “please” and “thank you.” Believe it or not, all those social niceties have a component of empathy to them. Personally, I think it’s very important to do exercises with kids to help develop empathy and to show them they aren’t the center of the universe.

How do you teach empathy to your child?


About James Lehman, MSW

James Lehman, who dedicated his life to behaviorally troubled youth, created The Total Transformation® Program, The Complete Guide to Consequences™, Getting Through To Your Child™, and Two Parents One Plan™, from a place of professional and personal experience. Having had severe behavioral problems himself as a child, he was inspired to focus on behavioral management professionally. Together with his wife, Janet Lehman, he developed an approach to managing children and teens that challenges them to solve their own problems without hiding behind disrespectful, obnoxious or abusive behavior. Empowering Parents now brings this insightful and impactful program directly to homes around the globe.

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