Sunday, May 17, 2009

Teaching your child empathic skills

Just came across this piece on CNN about raising your child with good social skills. I'll pick out a few quotes and let you read the full article.

The key point:

The study, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, found that children whose mothers often talked to them about people's feelings, beliefs, wants and intentions developed better social understanding than children whose mothers did not.

Tips on implementing it:

Weisman recommends to her patients that they use opportunities such as television shows and movies to talk to children about what the characters may be feeling as a result of the actions on screen. If someone is yelling at the supermarket, this is another chance to talk to a child about other people's feelings, she said.


"Let's say a young child grabs a toy away from another young child. It's helpful for parents to say something like, 'That makes him sad when you take it,' " rather than saying 'don't grab' or 'stop it,'" Huebner said.

And a caveat:

But social understanding does not guarantee good behavior, the authors said. Children who showed the most sophisticated social skills in this study also behaved the most negatively toward their mothers in the team task of steering a model car around a race track. This suggests that social understanding isn't everything and must be used in beneficial ways, Yuill said.

The article's title refers to "social skills," but the real benefits go far beyond learning to be popular. These abilities lay the foundation to being able to engage other people and the world as a whole in less selfish and harmful ways. And teaching them at a young age has the added benefit of preempting the artificial barriers of political / religious / other differences that eventually fool us into seeing many of the world's problems as being caused by fundamental differences in philosophy.

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