In my dad bloggers Facebook group, Lee posed the following question: What is something you are proud of your kids for?
Lee got some interesting responses: Confidence, imagination, independence, excitement over learning, being a good example, excelling in school despite outside challenges, genuine love of friends and family, hardworking, etc.
I didn’t hesitate in my response. I’m proud of my children’s sense of empathy. At least two other fathers also mentioned feeling pride over their child’s empathy. Clearly, it’s a trait, we, as parents, value.
What is Empathy?
But what exactly is empathy? Psychology Today defines empathy as:
- understanding the emotional makeup of people and (2) treating people according to their emotional reactions
It sounds simple enough. Understand people and treat them accordingly.
But is it simple? If it truly were so simple, would we parents be so proud when our children display it?
So, empathy may not be so simple after all.
Since parents do value empathy, a logical question is: Can we teach our children to be empathetic? I’d like to say Ms. MMK and I taught our kids to have empathy. I think we’re pretty nice people… at least sometimes. I’d venture to say we are both people who appreciate others and recognize emotions in others. Yet, I can’t think of a certain way we’ve taught our children to have empathy. No, unless you count the times we’ve said “be nice,” as teaching empathy, but what parent doesn’t say that?