Are you too hard for your child
Upbringing: The Key To A Happy Child
"The ability to empathize with others is key in today's society," claims Australian researcher Dr. Brad M. Farrant from the University of Western Australia / Perth. Empathic children, says the developmental psychologist Prof. Silvia Wiedebusch from the Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences, "are less aggressive, less selfish, can better fit into groups and cooperate with others". All good skills in a world where teamwork is becoming increasingly important.
Almost all parents have already observed that when a baby is crying, other babies in the room join in with the howling. A first sign of empathy? Research says: no. "With babies, there is still no empathy with the state of mind of another person," explains Wiedebusch. Rather, it is an "emotional contagion". If one of them screams, the others automatically join in. In order to be able to understand other people's feelings, a child must first be able to distinguish between themselves and others - it can only do that at one and a half. Between the ages of two and three, a phase begins that scientists call "egocentric empathy". Children show helpful responses, but most of all they do what would help them in a particular situation. So if papa is sad, offer him the teddy bear. After all, he comforts her too. It is only from the age of around three that the little ones understand what it means to really empathize with the emotional world of others.
Here's how parents can encourage empathy:
Emotional conversations: A study by researcher Farrant shows that children understand other people better when their mothers often talk to them about other people's feelings, for example when reading aloud. Children then also develop "the opportunity to reflect on their own way of dealing with feelings and to receive suggestions for coping strategies," says Wiedebusch.
Positive role model: Children watch carefully how parents behave in situations in which others are not doing well. "If parents exemplify compassion and respond to the feelings of those affected, the child learns from this positive role model," explains expert Wiedebusch.
Inductive parenting style: This is what psychologists call it when parents make it clear to their children what consequences their actions have. In conflict situations, parents should therefore repeatedly appeal to their children's feelings: "How would you feel if other children laugh at you?" Or, "How would you feel if someone took your toys away from you?"
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