According to the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, ’empathy’ means ‘the ability to understand other people’s feelings and problems’.
In parenting one’s child, the attitudes and behaviour we want our child to have are more often ‘caught’ than ‘taught’ (meaning if they see it in us they will more likely follow our behaviour).
As our child’s role models, how do we practise empathy?
1) Step into others’ shoes
Sometimes we can only understand why people behave the way they do if we observe others’ behaviour and reactions and think of why they behaved the way they did – and try to understand it.
2) Learn new things
We can take part in new activities that we had never tried before so that we will better understand others (our child included) who are not like us.
3) Nurture self-awareness
Sometimes we may have gone through bad experiences and do not want our children to go through what we had gone through. We must know ourselves and what cause us to feel this way so that when our children share with us their stories or views, we will not allow our our own personal experiences prevent us from (really) listening to them and then cloud our judgement.
4) Respecting common humanity
Being human is the one thing that makes us same like others. Just based on that, we need to have due regard for others.
What are other ways of cultivating kindness – in ourselves, at home and with our children and others :
1. Be inspired by daily quotes
2. Cherish written notes, cards or messages from friends /family and revisit these messages from time to time to cultivate gratitude
3. Consult with teachers/ mentors/child’s role models to further one’s understanding of kindness taught in schools and other good teachings relayed in the community
4. Use kind words in passing
5. Read and share meaningful acts and stories
6. Use positive words in self-talk
7. Accepting help as one grows older
8. Read books from wise sources
9. Dropping a call, a text (as and when) to people you are acquainted with to stay connected
Being empathetic requires kindness. Kindness is a character quality that could have been eroded over time for some due to personal experiences. However, it is a quality that can be nurtured from being conscious, intentional and with much practice. If a parent often demonstrates empathy, it would soon be a quality that will be demonstrated by their children.