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Looking at Values:


Thinking About Empathic/Empathetic

Definition: Your child is able to think and feel as another is thinking and feeling.
Behavior reflecting
the value:
In an argument she can identify how the other person is feeling and thinking. She can figure out why a child is upset. She can predict how someone else might act.
Knowledge and
skills needed:
Your child needs to be aware of others. She must be able to pick up subtle cues such as body language and tone of voice. She must be able to step out of her own thoughts and feelings to imagine how another person is thinking and feeling.
Insights about the
The ability to be empathic (empathetic) does not guarantee kindly behavior. People can use the understanding they get from being able to empathize for purposes that are unkind and even hurtful to others. Some bullies are very empathic. Their knowledge gained empathetically tells them how to torment a specific child.
Value present
at birth?

Teaching or Preserving Empathic/Empathetic
Baby: In babyhood, children experience having their own feelings recognized, accepted, and dealt with. They are only beginning to learn about feelings, and they have no concept that others have feelings too. They do intuitively match someone else's feelings by exhibiting the same behavior. When a baby hears another baby cry, she will often begin to cry too.
Toddler/Preschooler: At this age learning is based on experience. You need to explain to your small child how another feels and thinks. Encourage playmates to share their thoughts and feelings, modeling how to do this.
School age/Teenage: In the elementary school years, your child is beginning to be able to understand that others have thoughts and feelings also. With this knowledge she begins to be able to set aside her thoughts and feelings and to recognize how someone else is feeling. You need to talk with your child about the thoughts and feelings of other people and the possible reasons why people have the thoughts and feelings they do. As your child moves into her teenage years, she will be more capable of recognizing another person's position and all its implications.

Influences on Learning Empathic/Empathetic
Needs: Your child's needs to be loved and to love, to belong and to include others can motivate her to consider the feelings of others. Her curiosity needs, her desire to understand her world, can also motivate her.
Temperament: If your child moves toward people and likes being with them, she will be more comfortable finding out about them than will a child who is shy or reserved.
Learning style: Your child's mode of learning will affect the kind and quantity of information about others she will pick up. For example, the kinesthetic learner may become aware of another's feelings by matching her actions or feelings to that person's.

Reflections about Empathic/Empathetic
Influence of other
Other values may determine how your child uses the knowledge she acquires empathetically about other people. If you are teaching your child how to be a caring person, she will need the knowledge she gains empathetically to reach out to others in a caring way that is appropriate.
New thinking
resulting from
Empathy is a source of knowledge and carries no implications about how that knowledge will be used. Recognizing this requires a parent to rethink other values a child is learning.

Adapted from Using Your Values to Raise Your Child to Be an Adult You Admire by Harriet Heath, Ph.D.

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Last updated May 05, 2008