This book is powerful. It rests on the premise that today’s teens are measurably 40% less empathetic than they were 30 years ago and that today’s culture values “me” more than “we.” As long as you can look past the over usage of acronyms, I HIGHLY recommend it. I discovered concrete explanations for why developing empathy in children is so important…
“Empathy is the root of humanity and the foundation that helps our children become good caring people, but the empathy advantage also gives them a huge edge on happiness and success.”
I also discovered that empathy is highly teachable…
“Empathy can be instilled, and it is composed of teachable habits that can be developed, practiced, and lived.”
So here are my 5 take-aways…
1.Emotional intelligence is the key to unlocking empathy. Our children need to be able to recognize their own emotions and those of people around them before they can show they care. This sounds simple, but it becomes much trickier when you realize face to face interactions (not digital ones!) are the very best way to build emotional intelligence. Increases in screen time have resulted in countless missed opportunities for those face to face interactions where kids learn to notice, read, and respond to each other’s feelings. And all those missed opportunities add up.
2. If we want our kids to care about others, we have to tell them it’s important to us. And we have to model it too. Yet much of our focus and praise as parents goes to their academic and physical accomplishments. A Harvard study showed that 80% of students report their parents value high achievement or happiness over being kind. So don’t forget that telling your kids you value their caring-ness literally makes them value it too. It’s that simple.
3. Not only does reading make you smarter, it makes you kinder too. Especially literary non-fiction. Reading stories rich in character development (even shorter yet powerful picture books too!) helps you consider the world from another’s perspective. And the more often you consider different perspectives, the more likely you are to become the kind of person who cares about the people around you.
4. Practicing kindness makes you more kind. Kids don’t even have to be that excited about it in the beginning – they just need to DO it. And the act of doing it more often makes you notice and think about other people more often, which ultimately causes you to both feel and BE more kind.
5. Empathy alone isn’t always enough. When the going gets tough, children need a real sense of moral courage in order to act on their empathetic urges. There are concrete ways we can help our children develop a sense of moral courage as well as the confidence to be change-makers. And seeing yourself as someone who makes a difference in the world provides irreplaceable feelings of happiness and self-worth. And feelings of self-worth are perhaps our most important antidote to the rising number of mental health problems in today’s teens.
Want to learn more but don’t have time to read the whole book?