The expressions "walk a mile in someone else's shoes" and "look through someone else's eyes" are asking people to focus outside themselves, and adults understand their meaning. Teaching your child to be mindful of other involves taking time during the day for teachable moments. Asking your child to focus on others also means modeling a broad view of life and exposing your child to perspectives that don't necessarily match his world or your family views. The ability to see the perspectives of others helps your child understand the important role diversity plays in life.
Talk about the concepts of "needs" versus "wants" with your child on a daily basis to explore how different people in your child's life interpret these terms. Your child views wishes as an essential part of his life, but this view frequently fails to consider the needs of others. Discuss how people do things during the day to provide for the family or help others while postponing other things that the people find more enjoyable -- things they need to do, versus things they want to do.
Introduce your child to diverse people and expose your child to a wide range of experiences by volunteering and working with community groups as a family. Talk about the people your family meets during these volunteer experiences and explore both the similar and different perspectives of your family and the people you meet. Working as family volunteers with church or humanitarian group offers exposure to a wide range of people.
Engage with media to teach your child different personal perspectives. Read books as a family about people with perspectives different from your own and your child. View films with your child or watch the same movies as your child to have a foundation to discuss the viewpoints presented in the film. Talk about the perspectives of the film characters and how these align or differ from your family perspectives.
Teach your child to develop arguments from different perspectives by regularly changing roles with your child. For example, ask your child to play the role of mom during an argument and you play the part of your child to explore emotions and feelings. Do the same process role playing with people in the community. Ask your child, for instance, to take the role of the school principal or the classroom teacher when the child has a difference of option with the school officials. Encourage your child to think like others by asking, "Why do you think your teacher would ask you to change your behavior?" when receiving a note from school about your child's questionable classroom behavior.
Actively listen and respond to your child when she discusses her interactions with friends. Ask her questions about her friends' motivations and encourage her to stand in the shoes of her friends. Sometimes this process reveals that friends fail to take the perspective of others into account when reacting. Viewing situations from the friend's perspective also teaches your child a valuable lesson to consider the feelings or emotions of others when arriving at decisions or making public comments.
- Emory University Practical Matters; An Education of Heart and Mind -- Practical and Theoretical Issues in Teaching Cognitive-Based Compassion Training to Children; Brendan Ozawa-de Silva, et al.
- Brigham Young University: Teaching Children Empathy
- University of Alabama Parenting Assistance Line: Developing Empathy -- Raising Children Who Care
- Utah State University-College of Eastern Utah: Teaching Empathy
- University of California Berkeley Center for Greater Good: Educating for Empathy
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