Thoughtfulness: Engaging Empathy to Build Strong Brains

Helen was playing in the sandbox in the park, when a brawl between a brother and sister broke out near her. Helen looked up from her work to see them arguing over a shovel, knocking each other to the ground. Continue reading

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Want Cooperative Children? Treat Them As If They Are

 Man walks into a room with a clothesline across it, takes a handful of clothespins out of a basket and starts pinning up clothes. A mother and her 18-month-old son are sitting on the floor watching. After pinning several items, the man accidentally drops a pin on the floor. He then pretends to reach over the clothesline to try to pick up the dropped pin, but his arms just aren’t long enough. The 18-month-old watches the man struggle for few seconds, then leaves his mother, goes over to the clothespin, picks it off the floor and holds it up to the man, who takes it and says thank you. Continue reading

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To Educate Empathy, Educate Imagination

Responding by email to my article last week on children’s natural inclination toward empathy Allan, grandfather of Elise, wrote:

Having just spent five days with a 3 ½-year-old, I can reaffirm everything you say in this.

While her mom was working nearby, Elise and I had a wonderful pretend game where she was the proprietor of an ice cream shop and I was the customer.   She stood on the other side of a table and served me.   Unfortunately she only stocked chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, so just to stretch her imagination a bit (after enjoying a chocolate cone), I started asking for flavors she didn’t have.

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Parents and Teachers Building Empathy in Children

 “Hey, would you help me…”

Say this to children, and you will usually get an enthusiastic, “Sure.”

If you get a negative reaction, I can think of several possible causes off the top of my head: Continue reading

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Children Have Empathy Built In. 3 Ways We Can Help Them Use It

Don’t Teach Empathy. Teach Thoughtfulness

So much of what I read about combatting bullying, instilling morality and teaching empathy leaves out our greatest resource: the natural inclinations of children. Continue reading

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Teaching Empathy at Home and School. Can Schools Teach Empathy?

Last week a parent asked,  “Can schools teach empathy?” Here’s my answer.

Empathy isn’t taught. The human brain is wired for empathy (mirror neurons). Adults shape an environment; that environment shapes the child’s empathy. So schools can’t not educate a child’s empathy. If they don’t do it well, they do it poorly. Continue reading

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Altruism, Leadership and the Learning Community

Matt’s team of teachers was tired by the time it came to plan the April vacation camp program. Matt knew it would be hard to find volunteers—everyone needed the vacation, themselves. Nonetheless, he put “Staffing for Vacation Camp” on the agenda for their weekly meeting. When this item came up on the agenda, Matt said: “So, is there anyone who wants to work this vacation?” Continue reading

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