Dear Wildcats Families,
When a child is a “bully” could that be because they don’t know how to practice empathy?
noun: empathy1. the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
gerund or present participle: bullying
1. to use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants.As it applies to schoolBullying is generally repeated over time and involves a real or perceived imbalance of power with more powerful student(s) attacking the less powerful student(s). (See https://www.fcusd.org/Domain/3616 for the district policy on bullying/cyber bullying.)
1. Empathize with your child and model empathy for others. Children learn empathy both from watching us and from experiencing our empathy for them. When we empathize with our children they develop trusting, secure attachments with us.
2. Make caring for others a priority and set high ethical expectations. If children are to value others’ perspectives and show compassion for them, it’s very important that they hear from their parents that caring about others is a top priority, and that it is just as important as their own happiness.
3. Provide opportunities for children to practice empathy. Children are born with the capacity for empathy, but it needs to be nurtured throughout their lives. It requires practice and guidance. Regularly considering other people’s perspectives and circumstances helps make empathy a natural reflex and, helps children get better at tuning into others’ feelings and perspectives.
4. Expand your child’s circle of concern. We often talk about empathy as a quantity. For example, we speak of children as having a lot of or a little empathy or as lacking empathy entirely. Yet the issue often isn’t whether children can empathize or how much empathy they have. It is who they have empathy for. For most of us, it’s not hard to have empathy for our family members and close friends. It’s also human nature to have empathy for people who are like us in some way. But the real issue is whether children (and adults) have empathy outside that circle. As parents and caretakers, it’s not only important that we model appreciation for many types of people. It’s important that we guide children in understanding and caring for many kinds of people who are different from them and who may be facing challenges very different from their own challenges.
5. Help children develop self-control and manage feelings effectively. Often when children don’t express empathy it’s not because they don’t have it. It’s because some feeling or image is blocking their empathy. Often the ability to care for others is overwhelmed, for example, by anger, shame, envy, or other negative feelings. Helping children manage these negative feelings as well as stereotypes and prejudices about others is often what “releases” their empathy.