Love and compassion are the foundations on which a child is nurtured. However, along with love, empathy is also a key ingredient of parenting. Without this, parenting tends to become authoritative and can be the basis of some underlying psychological problems in adulthood. Before reading on to find how empathy improves parenting, it is important to understand what empathy means.
Definition of Empathy
According to the Oxford English Dictionary empathy is:
“The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”
What the experts say about Empathy
Barack Obama, in this speech, explains that the biggest deficit in the world right now is a lack of empathy and that the world would be a better place if we could learn to put ourselves in other people’s shoes. This is why we need to teach empathy to our children from the start.
Why is Empathy Important in Parenthood?
Children require the love and support of their parents at every stage of their lives. Most of the time, parents feel that as long as they have a love for their children, it is enough.
They have to teach their children and in doing so, they develop authoritarian behavior. This attitude is more like a dictator’s and most of the time, the feelings of the children are dismissed – commonly basing it on the fact they are just children, and they can’t have those feelings.
Do not confuse it with accepting all kinds of behaviors from your children. Simply acknowledge what they are saying, even if it may seem exaggerated. Before telling them off for a certain behavior, it is essential to understand what is at the root of all of it.
We need to be vigilant about it as we tend to unintentionally dismiss the emotions of our kids due to many reasons. Mainly, it is because of the way we have been brought up, and the way society has shaped our minds. For instance, many times you may have told your children not to cry when they came to you with a skinned knee or a broken toy.
When you tell them that everything is going to be okay and they shouldn’t be all teary about it (no matter how politely you are doing it), you are discounting the child’s feelings. Instead an emphatic statement, like “Oh, that must have hurt so much.” Or “You must be feeling so sad that your toy has broken” will stop the tears more quickly.
Once the child realizes that his or her feelings are being acknowledged, they will be more open to the suggestions that you present. We as adults, look forward to this kind of understanding too, so why would the children be different? It is even more important because children are more vulnerable than adults.
Empathy Leads to Self-Confidence
Empathy is the foundation that leads to self-confidence. Are you wondering how empathy and confidence are related? It is quite simple. When someone’s feelings are acknowledged, especially the children, that not only shows them that their feelings are important, it also tells them that their feelings are trustworthy.
They develop trust in their feelings and gain the confidence to express them. It gives them the reassurance they need and empowers them. It makes them more receptive to the suggestions of others.
Importance of Modelling Empathy to Children
Empathy is one of the most important parts of life as a person, and this is what truly separates a human being from other animals. Humans tend to be more receptive to how another person is feeling, and truly understand another’s perspective. The term ‘walking in someone else’s shoe’s is what empathy is all about.
If this is an inborn gift in humans, then why do we need to model it to our children? Well, traces of this skill are present in human nature, but it needs to be nurtured and developed. This is a much-needed developmental process that is important for all children, but if it is not modeled by parents, it is difficult for children to practice it.
You may have witnessed that bullies usually have parents who lack empathy. It is not only the bullies but other children too. If they lack empathy, they can be quite blunt and cruel about different situations in life.
Therefore, empathy is indispensable for children, because it is the bedrock on which all human relationships are based. Nurturing empathy in children through your actions makes them feel secure, and helps them learn to understand the feelings of others as well.
How Empathy Impacts Children
When the children appreciate what it is to be loved, respected, and nurtured, they will be devoted to expressing the same empathy and kindness towards the people around them, including their parents and peers. When children experience empathy, it instills tolerance and understanding in them.
It leads to healthy relationships throughout their lives. They learn to comprehend how their actions and expressions affect the people around them and help them make sound decisions in life.
Empathy helps a child to become a social and intellectual asset in the long run. This leads to social capital in the form of a compassionate and emphatic human being, who adds lots of positives to society. Empathy is much bigger than just being nice to people.
It is a skill that helps develop a sense of responsibility and makes a person highly productive. No matter what the situation or place is, an empathic person can contribute to making this world a better place. It is a leadership quality, and having more emphatic leaders in every field of life can ensure a more tolerant world.