How to Raise Empathetic and Caring Kids in A Self-Absorbed World

Following our conscience can be tough at any age. But, for children, whose conscience is still developing, it can be a real challenge. So, how can you raise your child to do the right thing when faced with a dilemma? Here are some helpful hints to get (and keep) your child on the right track.

• Lead by Example – We all have situations that require us to make moral decisions. When these situations arise, make sure you’re doing the right thing yourself, and make sure to talk about it with your kids. We’re not talking about tooting your own horn. But, if you’re in a sticky situation and your child is aware of it, letting them know that you had a choice to make – and that the choice was difficult, will help them to think through situations when they arise. If they see you taking the moral high ground, they’ll be much more likely to do so as well.

• Teach Empathy – Let your children observe situations that help them develop empathy. We’re often so consumed with providing a good life for our children, that we fail to show our children that not everyone has it as good. Being empathetic is really the skill of standing in someone else’s shoes and knowing how it feels. Practice developing empathy with activities – Blindfold your children and play tag or put headphones on and walk into town. Of course, be safe while they learn and grow. Help your children observe the lives of others. Teach them to open the door for an elder person or allow a child with a disability on the swing set first.

• Model Giving Back – Why not spend part of this Summer digging a garden at a children’s shelter? This Thanksgiving serve meals at a soup kitchen. Then help out with Toys for Tots this Christmas. When your children practice caring for others, they’re more likely to consider how their decisions might benefit or hurt other people. This gives them that little “voice” that helps them do the right thing.

• Praise Positive Behavior – When you witness your child doing the right thing, point it out. Sharing their toys, cleaning up a mess they made without being told, and following the rules at home without complaint are all situations that deserve your praise. If you make your children feel good about doing the right thing, they’ll want to do it.

• Have Appropriate Consequences for Not Doing the Right Thing – Sometimes, when your children choose not to do the right thing, the results include lying, cheating and stealing. These behaviors should be addressed with consequences that teach – and that they’ll remember. Pre-determine consequences for behaviors such as pushing, shoving or being selfish. Involve your children in generating your consequence list, so that they are committed to the consequence process. Make consequences relate to the infraction and focus on giving back, improving or repairing relationships.

• Allow Reality To Teach Lessons – Don’t cover up for your child. For instance, if you catch your child stealing, you should make him return the item to the owner at once, and fess up to what he did as part of the teaching experience. It’s likely that having to own up to what he did will teach him a lesson he’ll never forget.

Teaching your children to be responsible is about showing them the “right thing to do”. Do so by modeling, using age-appropriate expectations and teaching life lessons every day. It is possible to raise empathetic, sympathetic and caring kids in today’s self absorbed world. It just takes some patience, attention, teaching and caring on your part.

About the Author

Dr. Lynne Kenney is the nation’s leading pediatric psychologist in the development of classroom cognitive-physical activity programs for students grades K-8. Dr. Kenney develops curriculum, programming, and activities to improve children’s cognition through coordinative cognitive-motor movement, executive function skill-building strategies, and social-emotional learning. Dr. Kenney’s works include the Social-Emotional Literacy program Bloom Your Room™; Musical Thinking; Bloom: 50 things to say, think and do with anxious, angry and over-the-top-kids and 70 Play Activities For Better Thinking, Self-Regulation, Learning and Behavior. Learn more at Lynne is a member of the PedSafe Expert team


One Response to “How to Raise Empathetic and Caring Kids in A Self-Absorbed World”

  1. I Love this article! My Little Guy is with is much of the time and I want him to be a boy and man with a caring spirit and loving heart! I try to teach him by example.

    In this world of do whatever feels right, we have to teach our children that that every action has a reaction and that behaviors both negative and positive will have an impact on others. I’ve tweeted this post!


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