Empathy and relationships

I have been really enjoying the opportunity to teach the same class for 6 weeks. It has made me realise how important relationships are in teaching. To be with these kids in the emotional ups and downs of a day has reminded me of the importance of empathy – both for them and me! That ability to ‘walk in someone else’s shoes’. That ability to know how your behaviour impacts on someone else. That ability to modify your behaviour in the difficult situation. That ability to relate to someone in their hurt.


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“According to a recent Harvard study, cultivating empathy among students has been linked to a variety of desirable outcomes, including positive peer relationships, better communication skills, and fewer interpersonal conflicts.”
(If you have the time and inclination read more on the DailyGood Blog.)


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I went from thinking about this to reading the “Principal’s Corner” in “SPW News” – the end of term news from my boys school.

The leadership staff had heard Dr George Otero speak. “He suggested that the nature of the teacher-student relationship, the empathy and care shown by the teacher and the ability of the teacher to help children self-direct, were the most critical factors in determining student success.”
If this is true for the teacher-student relationship, how much more must it be for the parent-child relationship?


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What a challenge. Children pay more attention to what we do than what we teach.
What are our actions saying? Are we teaching our children empathy by the way we live?


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Enjoy the weekend!



Watch the emotions

I am really enjoying my teaching in a Reception/Year 1 class – that means the kids are between 5 and 7 years of age. At various times during the day I heard one student telling different kids “You can come to my party”, or if at a particular moment in time he was feeling upset it was “You aren’t coming to my party.”  At one stage  I received the ultimate compliment, I was informed by this boy “You’re invited to my party!”


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They are at that age where emotions and words flow freely and the kids are really learning to control them. I have been reminded how much emotions effect kids and their learning. It is hard to concentrate on learning when emotions are unsettled – both negative and positive. This is not just for little kids. I have now worked out that when my 11 year old is unhappy with friendships, he doesn’t eat much or function anywhere near as well.


“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart  you are, you are not going to get very far.”
(Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence – Kimochis Product Catalogue, p 7)

As teachers and parents, listening to our children is time well spent. They need to know they are heard and they need the time and help to process emotions.

Amongst the business of your life, may you take time to notice the emotions of the children around you. May you be able to help them distinguish the emotions and give them the words to describe them.


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5 things emotionally intelligent children do differently

Sometimes I notice those kids who let the other kid bat first, who don’t kick back when they’ve just been kicked for no reason, who empathize with the kid who has no friends and lets them join in and I think ‘wow’.


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These kids are displaying ’emotional intelligence’, they have ‘the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups’. (Wikipedia)

More and more research is finding that if kids can manage the emotional side of life then their academic areas are boosted. If kids have good coping skills then when the bumps in daily life come they get over them more easily. Emotional intelligence leads to resilience which then leads to flourishing.


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I listened recently to an on-line conference with Renee Jain. “5 things emotionally intelligent children do differently”.
The key is that these things can be learnt.
She has a website www.gozen.com and has done a lot of work in Positive Psychology, developing a program to help kids with resilience and emotional intelligence. Below are a few notes I made that I hope you will find both informative and practical.


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1. Highly emotionally intelligent children can label emotions. They have the vocabulary to describe how they and others are feeling. Sad is different to frustrated or embarrassed. Words like hopeful, enthusiastic and zestful may be used. Parents and teachers can encourage kids to label their emotions. One idea is to make flash cards with different emotions on them or to have an emotion list on the fridge. (Google ’emotions’ and then click ‘images’ for lots of ideas.)

2. Highly emotionally intelligent children have more impulse control (self-control). They are able to have a gap before they respond to a situation. This can be taught from a young age. For example, when a plate of food is placed in front of a child, take a mindful moment to see what is on the plate and to be thankful for it. (These teaching moments happen in a time when the child is not upset.)

3. Highly emotionally intelligent children keep things real. They are able to notice the good things. When negative things happen they see the negative but can collect other evidence to think accurately. eg. When they do poorly in a maths test they may think, “I did poorly on that topic, but there are other areas I do better at.” Parents and teachers can be the role model in these areas.

4. Highly emotionally intelligent children are more empathetic. They experience their own feelings and then can feel how others are feeling. With kids both at home and school, one can role play ‘stepping into your shoes.’ This is good to do with the child role playing the parent or teacher!

5. Highly emotionally intelligent children have parents who have high emotional intelligence and coach them.  Kids pick things up, so we need to be careful around them. We need to pause!

After listing these points, one thing I loved about the conference was that Renee then went on to empathise with parents. We are so busy and we can’t do everything. She used the analogy of ‘putting on your own oxygen mask first’ – making sure we are OK so we have the ability to effectively help others. She suggests picking one thing and have a mini goal. Eg have my child label 1 emotion this week.

Our society seems to live with a myth that we don’t fix things unless they are broken, but that is a reactionary model. We need to be taking opportunities to give our kids the skills for understanding their emotions even if they seem to be going well.


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Just a quick note at the beginning of this blog. It is school holidays in my part of the world, that means time with the kids and lots of adventures! As a result my blogs may be a bit more ‘hit and miss’, my apologies, but I think you will all understand!

….which nicely brings me to today’s blog topic of ’empathy’. Empathy is such an important thing to teach our kids and for us to be aware of in our parenting.  Yesterday one of my kids was upset that a ‘barbie comb’ had been lost. I really didn’t care or take much notice. It wasn’t until later when I had a moment I realised I had not dealt with the situation at all well. I had shown no empathy or even sympathy for that matter.  Today I stumbled across this short clip that had been referred to in Brainpickings (which is a really interesting blog to look at). It is thought provoking and I think enjoyable.