Teaching and watching young children learn is an incredible experience. As parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors in our communities, we all model various behaviors which children imitate and to which they add their own special characteristics.
As adults, we model kindness and caring to members of our family, to friends, to colleagues, to strangers in need, and to all living things, in hopes that children will see kindness and caring as a value, embrace it and develop empathy for others in the process.
There are many instances where children learn empathy and actually practice it without even realizing they are being empathetic. It is those moments when it is important to acknowledge their actions and discuss how they are growing in their capacity to be compassionate and understanding towards members of their families, their classmates at school, members of their communities and to all living things as well.
So, for example, when a child sees his or her sibling get hurt and he or she offers a comforting word or an understanding hug, those actions need to be identified and acknowledged as showing empathy for others.
When a child sees a friend being left out or bullied at school, and he or she intervenes with words of comfort and encouragement, he or she needs to be identified and acknowledged as showing empathy for others.
When a child offers some of his or her lunch to a friend at school because that friend forgot his or her lunch, that child needs to be identified and acknowledged as showing empathy for others.
When a child sees a homeless person, out in the cold, and offers his or her sweater, that child needs to be identified and acknowledged as showing empathy for others.
When a child picks up a small wounded bird and takes it to an adult for help, that child needs to be identified and acknowledged as showing empathy for other living things.
There are countless instances when children embrace and practice empathy, and it is important to identify, acknowledge and integrate those kind and caring acts into everyday lessons at school and at home.
Although one shouldn’t do acts of kindness and show empathy for others because of possible rewards, at the same time, we can acknowledge that there are benefits to all of us.
Consider the list below and let us know what you think.
1. Practicing empathy in the classroom creates an environment that is safe and positive for all students.
Classes are filled with children of different cultures, ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, and just personalities in general. Children learn to appreciate what makes each one of them unique and provide opportunities for learning and understanding of the beliefs, customs and rituals that others practice.
This can not only add to the joy and wonderment of learning, but also help create a warm and welcoming environment where children feel good about themselves and feel positive and safe with each other.
2. Practicing empathy makes your Superheroes community stronger.
When children learn empathy, they carry those lessons beyond just the classroom and their homes. It can filter out into the larger community and help children understand how important it is to reach out and give their time or give of themselves in a way that can make a difference in their community.
3. Practicing empathy helps build leadership skills.
It is not easy to be the first one to say, “That is wrong” or “I should do something to help.” When children practice empathy, they come to understand their feelings, those feelings of others and a mindset to act on those feelings. It is empowering to take action to help others. That’s what makes a Superhero.
The idea is to practice, identify and acknowledge empathy today, so that we can help nurture Superheroes for tomorrow!
Lily shows empathy early on when she decides to invite her classmates to help out with her donation drive. She immediately shows her leadership skills, and she has the courage and conviction to rally the rest of the Superheroes to help.
Sharing and caring is what Lily really champions, and this is something we imagine all children in all classrooms can embrace.