instilling gratitude in children

instilling gratitude in children

Joined: January 27th, 2003, 11:09 pm

May 21st, 2012, 6:02 pm #1

Gail mentioned in her post below about her children being unappreciative. I thought it might be useful to start a separate thread to brainstorm some ideas. I know I could use them.

After last week's baseball game, my 7.75 year old son had a meltdown because the parent who was providing the snack was purchasing a hot dog and a drink for each kid from the concession stand, and my little monster "Doesn't LIKE the hot dogs here!" He pitched a big crying fit. I think/hope it was fueled by being tired out from the game, but really, how awful! My kids never had a lot of big public meltdowns back when it would have been more age-appropriate for them to do so, but now my son and one of my 9-year-olds (S) seem to have a fair lot of these huge out-of-control fits, and they often seem to be focused around not getting something they feel entitled to.

Back in the car, I let my son know how angry I was at his behavior, and that he is not entitled to a snack. Snacks are provided by somebody who is being NICE, and the way he acted was the height of rudeness and ingratitude. My son will apologize to the parent next week, but I would like to try to find ways to head this kind of thing off before it happens. Any suggestions?

xoxoxoxoxo
MM
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

May 21st, 2012, 7:55 pm #2

DS still sometimes is ungrateful, but I quietly remind him to thank dh (or whoever) for whatever. I have noticed I get thanked a lot more, too, for things like sewing on a button. (I ***hate*** to sew, so poor ds thinks I'm an angel when I do.)

We don't do this as often, but since we're not really religious ppl, sometimes instead of grace, we'll say something we're grateful for before a meal.

I'd suggest that if you think there's even a slight possibility that a parent will provide a snack, just tell the kids before the event that you expect them to be polite and say "thank you," even if they don't like what's offered. It seems like repeated coaching is more important than finding just the right rationale.




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Joined: April 16th, 2004, 9:20 pm

May 21st, 2012, 8:45 pm #3

Gail mentioned in her post below about her children being unappreciative. I thought it might be useful to start a separate thread to brainstorm some ideas. I know I could use them.

After last week's baseball game, my 7.75 year old son had a meltdown because the parent who was providing the snack was purchasing a hot dog and a drink for each kid from the concession stand, and my little monster "Doesn't LIKE the hot dogs here!" He pitched a big crying fit. I think/hope it was fueled by being tired out from the game, but really, how awful! My kids never had a lot of big public meltdowns back when it would have been more age-appropriate for them to do so, but now my son and one of my 9-year-olds (S) seem to have a fair lot of these huge out-of-control fits, and they often seem to be focused around not getting something they feel entitled to.

Back in the car, I let my son know how angry I was at his behavior, and that he is not entitled to a snack. Snacks are provided by somebody who is being NICE, and the way he acted was the height of rudeness and ingratitude. My son will apologize to the parent next week, but I would like to try to find ways to head this kind of thing off before it happens. Any suggestions?

xoxoxoxoxo
MM
I totally know what you mean!! My kids are so spoiled - when DP travels she always brings them a small or sometimes when she goes far and long a bigger present. Sometimes it's all the kids want to talk about when they speak on the phone. It really bugs me. Also last time, DP was gone 3 days and brought a cute cookie and some chocolate. I thought it was totally appropriate, but DS wanted a Lego spinner... He had a fit and I was so sad about that! What? I told DP not to bring anything anymore until they don't expect it.

Last night, my DD had a big sync skating event. She is practicing with the big girls to be able to try out for a higher level team. It's a big deal for her and some of her friends who qualify for the tryouts. One dad bought the girls a treat from the little snack shop. They are people so genuine and certainly not some of the more wealthy ones. I was glad to see that DD was very appreciative and I said to her that we should prepare a little something for all the kids who will show up to the try-outs to pay it forward to some degree! I think that may teach kids as well to be kind to others.

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Joined: February 20th, 2006, 11:35 pm

May 22nd, 2012, 5:38 pm #4

Gail mentioned in her post below about her children being unappreciative. I thought it might be useful to start a separate thread to brainstorm some ideas. I know I could use them.

After last week's baseball game, my 7.75 year old son had a meltdown because the parent who was providing the snack was purchasing a hot dog and a drink for each kid from the concession stand, and my little monster "Doesn't LIKE the hot dogs here!" He pitched a big crying fit. I think/hope it was fueled by being tired out from the game, but really, how awful! My kids never had a lot of big public meltdowns back when it would have been more age-appropriate for them to do so, but now my son and one of my 9-year-olds (S) seem to have a fair lot of these huge out-of-control fits, and they often seem to be focused around not getting something they feel entitled to.

Back in the car, I let my son know how angry I was at his behavior, and that he is not entitled to a snack. Snacks are provided by somebody who is being NICE, and the way he acted was the height of rudeness and ingratitude. My son will apologize to the parent next week, but I would like to try to find ways to head this kind of thing off before it happens. Any suggestions?

xoxoxoxoxo
MM
MM, thank you for bringing this up. I think about this a lot too. My kids have so much; even if they don't have as much as many kids nowadays, and even if we do try to keep things down to earth and don't buy them whatever they want whenever they want, they still have so much and are so lucky.

I sometimes feel that if we went to church it would be easier to install this sense of gratitude, but we don't, so it needs to come from us at home. We do talk about how lucky we are, how much we have, how it's important to give back, let them know that to whom much is given, much is expected, etc. At some point I want them to start volunteering -- whether it's cleaning up the local creek, or helping deliver meals on wheels, work at a soup kitchen, etc. And as I'm writing that I see that DH and I have to step up to the plate too and do such things more often so that they see it in action. Sometimes I try to get everyone to say something they're grateful for before dinner.

I'm sorry about your DS's reaction to the snack -- I'd be mortified too. If it makes you feel any better, let me share my mother's day experience with you: DH was gone so I took the boys to the bakery to pick up donuts and pastries to bring to grandma's house. The boys wanted chocolate or sprinkle donuts but when we got there they only had glazed or plain ones. So I started to order those and some pastries, and DS went off on a rage -- he didn't want glazed donuts or the pastries, he wanted something else (cookies, which I said no to.) He started yelling and hitting me, pulling my shirt up, really making a scene. This was a very crowded bakery, by the way, everyone coming in on Mothers' Day morning to pick up treats for their mothers. I was embarrassed and really should have left to teach him a lesson, but I had promised my MIL I'd bring something over and also the young woman behind the counter had already started putting together my order. It was humiliating to be hit like that by your 8.5 year old...as I was buying him sweets! Happy mother's day! Sigh. He did later apologize, but was angry for quite some time.

Our therapist told us we should rehearse situations beforehand, e.g. say "What are you going to order at the bakery?" And then "And what happens if there aren't any, how will you respond? What will you do/order instead?" -- so basically prepare them for not getting what they want, just in case. This sounds good and practical except that you do need to think ahead in every situation where you can envision disappointment.

xoxo
Lillian

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Joined: December 29th, 2006, 10:07 am

May 22nd, 2012, 9:49 pm #5

Gail mentioned in her post below about her children being unappreciative. I thought it might be useful to start a separate thread to brainstorm some ideas. I know I could use them.

After last week's baseball game, my 7.75 year old son had a meltdown because the parent who was providing the snack was purchasing a hot dog and a drink for each kid from the concession stand, and my little monster "Doesn't LIKE the hot dogs here!" He pitched a big crying fit. I think/hope it was fueled by being tired out from the game, but really, how awful! My kids never had a lot of big public meltdowns back when it would have been more age-appropriate for them to do so, but now my son and one of my 9-year-olds (S) seem to have a fair lot of these huge out-of-control fits, and they often seem to be focused around not getting something they feel entitled to.

Back in the car, I let my son know how angry I was at his behavior, and that he is not entitled to a snack. Snacks are provided by somebody who is being NICE, and the way he acted was the height of rudeness and ingratitude. My son will apologize to the parent next week, but I would like to try to find ways to head this kind of thing off before it happens. Any suggestions?

xoxoxoxoxo
MM
as I think it will be hard to instill gratitude when so much is given out to kids in this society - despite me personally not really indulging them (well I make a point of not buying the sweets they ask for if we visit a shop as I tell them I do not have enough money for that)

But my almost 5 year old was going to a party and told me he hoped he would get a really good party bag afterwards. When I said he might not get one as not everyone gives these out, he said that would be really mean of them not to do that. He even said "they would not like it, if they went to a party and did not get a party bag".

I gave him a bit of lecture about ingratitude and that not everyone can afford to give out party bags as well as giving a party.

Now we are having a party for him and he asked if we were giving out party bags and I said yes and he said "good because not everyone can afford to give these out, but we can!". I don't think I am doing very well here.
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Joined: December 29th, 2006, 10:07 am

May 22nd, 2012, 9:49 pm #6

Gail mentioned in her post below about her children being unappreciative. I thought it might be useful to start a separate thread to brainstorm some ideas. I know I could use them.

After last week's baseball game, my 7.75 year old son had a meltdown because the parent who was providing the snack was purchasing a hot dog and a drink for each kid from the concession stand, and my little monster "Doesn't LIKE the hot dogs here!" He pitched a big crying fit. I think/hope it was fueled by being tired out from the game, but really, how awful! My kids never had a lot of big public meltdowns back when it would have been more age-appropriate for them to do so, but now my son and one of my 9-year-olds (S) seem to have a fair lot of these huge out-of-control fits, and they often seem to be focused around not getting something they feel entitled to.

Back in the car, I let my son know how angry I was at his behavior, and that he is not entitled to a snack. Snacks are provided by somebody who is being NICE, and the way he acted was the height of rudeness and ingratitude. My son will apologize to the parent next week, but I would like to try to find ways to head this kind of thing off before it happens. Any suggestions?

xoxoxoxoxo
MM
as I think it will be hard to instill gratitude when so much is given out to kids in this society - despite me personally not really indulging them (well I make a point of not buying the sweets they ask for if we visit a shop as I tell them I do not have enough money for that)

But my almost 5 year old was going to a party and told me he hoped he would get a really good party bag afterwards. When I said he might not get one as not everyone gives these out, he said that would be really mean of them not to do that. He even said "they would not like it, if they went to a party and did not get a party bag".

I gave him a bit of lecture about ingratitude and that not everyone can afford to give out party bags as well as giving a party.

Now we are having a party for him and he asked if we were giving out party bags and I said yes and he said "good because not everyone can afford to give these out, but we can!". I don't think I am doing very well here.
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Joined: January 19th, 2007, 7:18 pm

May 23rd, 2012, 5:01 am #7

Gail mentioned in her post below about her children being unappreciative. I thought it might be useful to start a separate thread to brainstorm some ideas. I know I could use them.

After last week's baseball game, my 7.75 year old son had a meltdown because the parent who was providing the snack was purchasing a hot dog and a drink for each kid from the concession stand, and my little monster "Doesn't LIKE the hot dogs here!" He pitched a big crying fit. I think/hope it was fueled by being tired out from the game, but really, how awful! My kids never had a lot of big public meltdowns back when it would have been more age-appropriate for them to do so, but now my son and one of my 9-year-olds (S) seem to have a fair lot of these huge out-of-control fits, and they often seem to be focused around not getting something they feel entitled to.

Back in the car, I let my son know how angry I was at his behavior, and that he is not entitled to a snack. Snacks are provided by somebody who is being NICE, and the way he acted was the height of rudeness and ingratitude. My son will apologize to the parent next week, but I would like to try to find ways to head this kind of thing off before it happens. Any suggestions?

xoxoxoxoxo
MM
as my younger one is too young & we're just dipping our toes in the water with the older one.

Feel free to laugh at me for having the nerve to chime in, but we're also mindful of this & wondering. So far, we're pretty type B & mindful of avoiding "over spoiling" them, etc. Still, the reality is that we can afford to heat our house in the winter, cool our house in the summer, buy the food we want, buy them clothes, etc. And not having to worry about the basics is a hallmark of luxury for most of the world.

Both dh & I had more spare childhoods. Dh can remember Burger King every Friday being a huge treat (due to cost, not health) & I can remember seeing my breath in the house in the winter most of my growing up years. So we can't replicate exactly how we grew up. (Nor would we want to b/c I'll be danged if I'm going to see my own breath inside my house in the winter or have a space heater hanging from a nail on the bedroom wall, heating the room. I can remember eating breakfast on the kitchen floor b/c that's where that space heater was, & my brother & I used to fight over space in front of the heater. The line down the middle was the dividing line, with each of us in front of half the heater. It was actually a good thing for our characters, but yeah, I'm not going to replicate that one. LOL!)

So far, & I'm definitely still navigating the very beginnings of this, it seems to me that it is going to take a constant, consistent effort to reinforce the values that many of us came by the hard way or at least the harder way.

It's more work for us as parents & requires planning & thought. Which is hard b/c we're all over extended. But I do think it requires a concerted effort. And so far, even though I'm barely beginning this, that effort is constantly thwarted by other parents & kids. Argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I do think volunteering & making kids aware of those less fortunate helps a lot. Ds #1 is still small, but I did talk to him once about how some people have no homes. Unfortunately for me, he tends to ask complicated questions that I can't find a way to answer well, but it does stick with him. (Like why, which left me struggling to get across in an age-appropriate manner that sometimes it's by choice, sometimes it's due to bad choices, but regardless, it's cold in the winter, hot in the summer, etc.) He mentioned it only the other day, so it stuck at some level.

OTOH, just last night, instead of being grateful he got a fun evening at a party place plus pizza, courtesy of his tee call coach, he ended the evening in near tears all b/c we wouldn't let him get some darned cheap toy from a machine. He actually did start to cry but mostly stopped b/c I threatened him with bed & he knew I was ticked off. Really annoying. We probably should've done more talking to him then but at that point, we were trying to steer 2 boys toward the door despite their best efforts to go the opposite direction. Still, not stellar gratitude from ds, to say the least.






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Joined: August 21st, 2002, 8:07 pm

May 23rd, 2012, 1:58 pm #8

Gail mentioned in her post below about her children being unappreciative. I thought it might be useful to start a separate thread to brainstorm some ideas. I know I could use them.

After last week's baseball game, my 7.75 year old son had a meltdown because the parent who was providing the snack was purchasing a hot dog and a drink for each kid from the concession stand, and my little monster "Doesn't LIKE the hot dogs here!" He pitched a big crying fit. I think/hope it was fueled by being tired out from the game, but really, how awful! My kids never had a lot of big public meltdowns back when it would have been more age-appropriate for them to do so, but now my son and one of my 9-year-olds (S) seem to have a fair lot of these huge out-of-control fits, and they often seem to be focused around not getting something they feel entitled to.

Back in the car, I let my son know how angry I was at his behavior, and that he is not entitled to a snack. Snacks are provided by somebody who is being NICE, and the way he acted was the height of rudeness and ingratitude. My son will apologize to the parent next week, but I would like to try to find ways to head this kind of thing off before it happens. Any suggestions?

xoxoxoxoxo
MM
I was at my son's hockey practice the other night - and I got each of the boys a treat. I was passing out the treats at the end of practice and I got to the sixth child and he said "thank you." I was waiting for it...and I said, "Thank you for saying thank you!" and then I spoke up and asked for everyone to take notice and recognize the polite guy who remembered to say "thanks" for the treat...which then resulted in kids one through five saying thanks at once and then every kid said thanks from that moment on.

Yes, it's hard to get the appreciation - looking for moments to give a reminder here and there is one way we can help them along - but often times, no one does that. It's not surprising that the young adults feel so entitled these days.



[size=300]EllenA[/size]

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Joined: February 16th, 2006, 1:10 am

May 24th, 2012, 4:58 pm #9

Gail mentioned in her post below about her children being unappreciative. I thought it might be useful to start a separate thread to brainstorm some ideas. I know I could use them.

After last week's baseball game, my 7.75 year old son had a meltdown because the parent who was providing the snack was purchasing a hot dog and a drink for each kid from the concession stand, and my little monster "Doesn't LIKE the hot dogs here!" He pitched a big crying fit. I think/hope it was fueled by being tired out from the game, but really, how awful! My kids never had a lot of big public meltdowns back when it would have been more age-appropriate for them to do so, but now my son and one of my 9-year-olds (S) seem to have a fair lot of these huge out-of-control fits, and they often seem to be focused around not getting something they feel entitled to.

Back in the car, I let my son know how angry I was at his behavior, and that he is not entitled to a snack. Snacks are provided by somebody who is being NICE, and the way he acted was the height of rudeness and ingratitude. My son will apologize to the parent next week, but I would like to try to find ways to head this kind of thing off before it happens. Any suggestions?

xoxoxoxoxo
MM
If a child can't understand the feelings of another I don't think they can be grateful. It is something you learn from your parents and something that takes a long, long time to learn. IMHO, it's the most important part of parenting right along with nurturing, safety and education. Plus I think we have to think that sometimes it is pretty darn natural to want to say "I don't like that", but as we mature, we learn to say it to ourselves(hopefully).

I've learned not to be too disappointed when my children display selfish behavior because kids are designed to be selfish---it's survival. I was raised with a huge emphasis on appearance and huge doses of shame. I'm really trying to move away from that approach, especially the appearances part. I'm at the point where I'm quite near my goal of 0% embarrassment when my children behave like children and imho that is what your son did. I also try really hard not to judge parents when their kids haven't mastered certain skills and I think most parents know that any day, they could have the child that is a bit off the mark. Again, they are supposed to do that. They are children and they are learning. However, I do take total responsibility to keep them up to speed, teach how to treat others well and it seems like you are totally on top of that.

Gratitude can be complex because you have to learn how to find it in each circumstance. Such as being grateful that someone brought treats even if it is a treat you don't like. Let's face it, it's pretty hard for a lot of adults to do this. I'm not sure you can totally prepare for this impulse control, but I think you did the best thing by making a huge deal out of it in the car. I do that, too. I think that is the best way you can teach him. Hugs to you and DS... hoping for better snacks so he can be doubly grateful next time!

found this site....
http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/arti ... es-empathy

Ages & Stages: Empathy
By Carla Poole, Susan A. Miller, EdD, and Ellen Booth Church
How to nurture this important gateway to a social and emotional growth

Grade:

PreKK, Early Childhood

Subject:

Early Learning, Compassion and Honesty, Emotional and Social Development

Stage by Stage

0 - 2

By soothing an infant, you'll help him learn to comfort himself and, eventually, to comfort others.

Toddlers are sensitive to the feelings of their friends and will often mimic their emotions-a necessary precursor to empathy.

Empathy needs to be repeatedly modeled and encouraged in toddlers before it becomes a part of their behavior.

3 - 4

Threes can make the connection between emotions and desires, and they can respond to a friend's distress with simple soothing gestures.

Sometimes preschoolers can only relate to the feelings of others if they share the same feelings and perspective on a situation.

Fours are capable of seeing a situation from another person's perspective. Yet they need to know that not all! reactions to feelings are OK.

5 - 6

With their ever-increasing vocabulary, lives love to share their feelings, and discussions about emotions will help them develop a better understanding of the feelings of others.

Fives and sixes are learning how to read others' feelings through their actions, gestures, and facial expressions--an essential empathy and social skill.

By modeling and encouraging empathy, kindergartners will learn how to become compassionate members of a caring community.



0 to 2 Building a Foundation by Carla Poole

Two-month-old Seth begins to fuss when his teaches Tanya, gently puts him in his infant seat. Tanya talks to him, hoping that her voice will soothe him. When his fussing becomes more determined, Tanya rubs his tummy and croons his name, but Seth keeps crying. Finally, she picks him up and slowly rocks him until he begins to calm down. Although Tanya responds quickly to Seth's discomfort, her approach is gradual, starting with her voice. By moving in slowly she is letting him assist in his own comforting. The newborn's job is to learn, with loving help, how to soothe himself. Just as talking to an infant helps him learn language, soothing him helps him learn to comfort himself and, eventually, to comfort others.

During these nurturing interactions, infants fall deeply in love with the people who care for them. These strongly felt connections give them the emotional capacity for later feelings of empathy. Empathy, an important component of social and emotional development, emerges within consistent and caring relationships over several years. Much of the groundwork is laid during early attachments formed in infancy:

Mimicking Emotions

Nine-month-old Jamal loves to put the blanket on his head, pull it off, and look for cheers of approval. He is learning to read facial and gestural cues, repeating activities that make people laugh. He is becoming more aware of other people and how they are feeling--an essential precursor to empathy.

While many junior toddlers are sensitive to the feelings of others, they don't yet feel empathy Ben, for example, begins to cry when his mother is temporarily out of sight. Emily, another one-year-old playing next to him, suddenly turns somber. Ben's anxiety has triggered a similar feeling in Emily. Although she has been affected by Ben's tears, she is not yet aware of why her playmate is crying and has no need to comfort him.

Toddlers observe and imitate the adults who care for them. When 18-month-old Anna falls and scrapes her knee, a group of children gather around her and watch as her teacher comforts hey In time, they will use the teacher's behavior as their template for comforting others. Empathic behavior needs to be repeatedly modeled by adults and encouraged in children before it becomes part of their behavior

Early Signs of Empathy

Developing empathy is a gradual process. At first a toddler may only have a vague impression that something is wrong. Twenty-month-old Jenny, for example, is busy helping to find baby Sally's favorite blanket. Jenny's teacher explicitly encourages her: "Thank you for helping to make Sally feel better!" As the two-year-olds expanding thinking skills combine with positive emotional experiences, brief moments of early empathy begin to take place.

Two-year-old Jeremy pats his friend's back when he starts to cry after dropping his ice cream cone. Jeremy has internalized all the comforting pats that he has received whenever he was upset. His empathy is limited, however; to familiar situations that he has experienced himself, like losing a favorite toy or having to say good-bye to Mommy in the morning.

It's hard work for a two-year-old to understand the perspective of others. Try telling a toddler that you're too tired to play when she's eager to go outside for a game of Chase Me! Her strong need to run will easily outweigh any empathic feelings she might have for her tired teacher. Yet when Emily's noodles keep slipping off her spoon, a fellow two-year-old gets up and begins to feed her with his spoon! Toddlers can care for one another-specially when helping each other is talked about and modeled by the adults who care for them.

What You Can Do
Describe how others are feeling: "Angelo is sad because he lost his ball." This helps children become more aware of their feelings and the feelings of others.
Gently guide the children's play to encourage empathy: "David is hungry too! He needs some pretend snack on his plate!" or "Is the dolly sleepy? You are taking very good care of that dolly!"

3 to 4 An Awareness of Feelings by Susan A. Miller, Ed.D.

Brittany smiles as she strokes the fur of a special fluffy classroom visitor Three-year-old Valerie says to her teacher: "Look at Brittany. She's happy petting the kitty." When the kitty suddenly runs away and hides, Brittany frowns and cries, "Come back!" To comfort hey Valerie pats Brittany's arm and says, "Don't be sad," while four-year-old Marc appears on all fours in front of Brittany and purrs, "It's OK. Pet me. I'll be your kitty now."

Valerie and Marc are exhibiting various emotional and cognitive aspects of the important pro-social behavior empathy. Valerie's comments show that a three-year-old can comprehend a connection between emotions and desires. When Brittany has something she wants, such as the kitty, she's happy; but when she loses it, she's sad. Valerie recognizes Brittany's distress and responds to it with a simple, soothing gesture.

Quite verbal at age four, Marc's response relates to the cognitive aspect of empathy At this age, he is beginning to see situations from another person's perspective more easily. Relating to Brittany's feelings, he acknowledges her unhappiness, empathizes, and then offers a strategy to make her feel better.

Lessons in Sincerity

Social psychologists believe that although children are born with a capacity for empathy, they can also learn to become empathic. However, empathy has to be natural, spontaneous, and sincere. Jarrod's teacher tells him: "Daniel is crying. Paint is splashed all over his picture. You must tell him that you're sorry." If four-year-old Jarrod is forced in such a way to say he's "sorry" without understanding why or how it relates to Daniel's feelings, he isn't really exhibiting or learning empathic behavior. In fact, the insincerity of this process may teach him that others' feelings don't really matter. Instead, the teacher needs to encourage Jarrod's participation in the process by asking: "How do you think Daniel is feeling? What might you do to help him?"

A Different Perspective

Some three-year-olds may not be able to respond to another child's feelings if they don't share the same feelings and perspective on a situation. While building a castle in the big outdoor sandbox, Ingrid yells loudly, "Hey! Stop stomping on my castle!" When questioned by the teaches three-year-old Leah, oblivious to both Ingrid's castle project and her feelings of frustration, says, "Oh, I was just taking a little walk on the beach." Because Leah didn't see herself as destructive, it is difficult for her to be empathic toward Ingrid and her situation.

Perception has a great deal to do with empathy By preschool age, children understand different emotions fairly well and know that everybody has feelings. However children need to understand that not all reactions to feelings are OK. Sometimes children laugh at others simply because everyone else does or as a reaction to being glad that the incident didn't happen to them. When Zach falls in the slippery mud, some children instantly giggle, point, and say, "You look funny!" But four-year-old Jang, sensitive to his friend's feelings, gives him a hand up and says, "I'll help you wash the mud off."

What You Can Do

Here are some ways you can help children learn to be more empathic and appreciate how different people express their feelings:
Teach words about feelings and emotions. Together create faces in a mirror or on flannel board and talk about how the expressions make the children feel-happy, mad, sad.
Display pictures depicting various emotions and empathic scenes. Use a camera to capture thoughtful interactions in your classroom, then mount the pictures and label them with the children's names and the helpful actions they're engaged in.
Keep dialogue open. Ask a child who is distressed what would make him feel better. Encourage other children to help assist with his suggestions, if possible.
Ask open-ended questions to help encourage empathy. By asking, "How can we help Dennis feel better about his broken toy tractor?" children will brainstorm meaningful ways to show kindness.
Be a kind and empathic role model. Demonstrate nonverbal and verbal strategies while working with needy children. Initiate caring gestures-a hug, a soothing back rub, holding or patting a hand. Use a soft, calming voice as you let a child know you understand how she feels.

5 to 6 Showing Compassion by Ellen Booth Church

On the playground, a few children gather around the teacher to talk about a friend who seems to be out of sorts. "Maybe Sophie is feeling sad because her mom had to go to the hospital," declares six-year-old Tyrone, demonstrating a mature level of awareness for a classmate's feelings. Five-year-old Regina suggests: "I missed my dad when he went away on a trip." Another small voice adds: "She could be scared too. It's scary when someone goes away." The teacher Mc Levine, asks: "What can we do to help? What would make you feel better if you were Sophie?"

Empathy-the ability to identify with and understand another person's feelings, situation, or motives-has its roots in discussions like this, which take place between a small group of buddingly aware children and a sensitive teacher. Mc Levine is conscious of all the emotions involved in the conversation and careful not to try to "fix" the situation by telling the children what to do. He's also careful not to discount their feelings by suggesting that Sophie will feel better soon. By acknowledging children's feelings and emotions, he is demonstrating empathy without passing judgment. His message is clear: Emotions are welcome in this class and can be expressed and discussed freely.

Discussing Feelings

Empathy develops from self awareness. As five- and six-year-olds become more aware of their own emotions, they begin to recognize them in others, and their emotional vocabulary expands. With this increased language facility, the doors open to in-depth discussions about emotions that are the main avenue for developing empathy skills. These discussions can come from a classroom situation, a current event, a shared reading of a book, a photograph, even a TV program that elicits an emotional response.

Interestingly, children at this stage really want to talk about how they feel. And by taking time to discuss the emotions of a book character; for example, or the feelings of a friend after a fight, you provide children with the raw materials for developing compassionate understandings and actions.

Reading Cues

Empathy requires the nonverbal skill of observation. Five- and six-year-olds are learning how to "read" others' feelings through their actions, gestures, and facial expressions, as well as understand their expressed words. Have you ever noticed how children watch your face as you talk to them? They seem to be scanning you for a hint to the feelings behind your words. This is a key empathy skill. The valuable adult skill of being able to "feel someone out" begins at this stage of development.

The ability to read nonverbal cues is also essential to the development of the social skills needed for group interaction. At circle time, the children are in a particularly rambunctious mood, giggling and wiggling as the teacher smiles and moves with them. Noticing the time, the teacher shifts her movements to prepare for a story, and her facial expression becomes quieted more focused, and serious. Like silent magic, some children detect her shift and settle down. Other attuned children, noticing the change in the group's energy, join in, while a few others remain unaware and continue wiggling.

People who know how to watch, listen, and observe the actions and emotions of those around them are often the most successful in life. A conscious alignment of self with others starts with the development of empathy in the early years. If you can demonstrate empathy, your children will be in the presence of their finest teacher.

What You Can Do
Be empathic. Avoid the simple "quick-fix" by solving children's problems or by giving them the comforting "everything will be all right" answer to their feelings. Instead, be a good role model by reflecting what they are feeling.
Use expressive photographs, drawings, and wordless books to provide practice in "reading" the nonverbal expressions and emotions of others. Remember that there is no right or wrong answer in these activities. Allow children the safety of expressing what they are feeling and imagining without criticism.
Express your feelings openly If you are having a hard day, tell the group. Not only might their reactions amaze you, your ability to verbalize a range of emotions will help children recognize and respond to the emotions of others.





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Joined: February 16th, 2006, 1:10 am

May 24th, 2012, 7:53 pm #10

guess that link was for kids up until age 6

I also stumbled upon a lot of articles about a link between the decline in reading and a lack of empathy, but I didn't read it all. I kept having flashes of a few people in my life (actully quite a few) that constantly read and are the least empathetic people I know... not all of course, but a strikingly large amount.

I think this site has some clever ideas.... very interesting


http://www.parentingscience.com/empathy ... teens.html




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