Clinical psychologist Dr. Cara Gardenswartz, Ph.D: I am a firm believer in having schools promote empathy and social learning. Given that children spend more than half of their waking time in school, it is extremely important that they learn not only academics, but also how to be good citizens of the world.
In doing so, schools can help children achieve their full human potential. Ideally, schools would have twice-weekly periods on emotional and social issues. In some schools, such periods are called "Life Skills." Life skills include:
Using good judgement
Responsibility--taking initiative, being accountable
Flexibility--being able to adapt
Effort--doing one's personal best
Problem-solving--creating solutions for challenging situations
Interpersonal skills--respect, caring for others, cooperating, and making friends
Tolerance--recognizing and respecting other points of view and understanding different kinds of families (divorced, gay, single parent, bi-racial)
Empathy is a running theme throughout this type of programming.
At the very least, schools should have programming to include conflict resolution, and anti-bullying. Ideally, there would also be a time during school for community or class meetings in which every student has a voice and every student learns to listen actively to others.
Life skills programs decrease conflict in school, and promote less conflict outside of school, and hopefully even counter some of the negative consequences of the conflict that children may experience at home.
Tips for moms to raise a nicer child:
- Be kind to your child. Use gentle voices. Model kindness (verbally and behaviorally) toward other family members and people in your community. Show physical affection.
- When you see someone being unkind, point it out to your child and talk about other ways the person can act. When your child is unkind, ask them why and come up with alternatives together.
- Admit when you are wrong.
- Be consistent in your parenting and enforce consequences. Setting limits with your child will lead to a less self-centered child, and also promote acceptable behavior.
- Expect your child to help around the house and in the community (doing good deeds -- e.g., lemonade stand to raise money for charity).
- Teach your child to respect people including neighborhood workers (postal workers, etc.).
- Help your child to be a good friend by observing them with their friends and talking about what makes someone a kind friend and person.
- Do not allow your child to tease or bully other people. Talk to them about how it would feel if someone teased or bullied them.
- When your child is kind, recognize it: "I see how you hugged your friend when she was upset."
- Read stories together. I recommend the book "How to Be a Friend" to read with your child and to open dialogue. Also when reading with your children, talk about the characters in the books and their motives and actions.
Most importantly, model empathy and be kind but firm with your children. They will internalize what they see and feel.
Do you think empathy classes are a good idea?
|Dr. Cara Gardenswartz is a licensed clinical psychologist (License #PSY18399) who provides therapy to adults and couples, and specializes in group therapy. She has over 16 years of education, training, and experience in her field. She received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and went on to earn her Master's and Doctorate in Psychology at the UCLA. In addition to working with patients, Dr. Gardenswartz is a script consultant for television and film. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son.|