Grow Empathy to Grow Confidence
Updated: Apr 30, 2020
Thinking of others.
Feeling their pain.
Recognizing their need.
Challenging for adults. SUPER challenging for young kids.
But, its essential.
Essential for relationships.
Essential for growth.
Essential for leaders.
We all know that kids (and adults!) have a one track mind...themselves. Not only do they not see past the end of their nose, they don't even know an outside world exists outside their current wants and feelings. Which can make the act of empathy extremely difficult. However, teaching empathy is essential if we desire to build strong, confident leaders. Because the more we can recognize others and their feelings or needs then the more we can 1. Realize that our own feelings are normal, and 2. Bring change to those around us.
Empathy is the act of putting yourself in someone else's shoes and recognizing what they may be feeling or thinking at a certain time. It does not mean feeling sorry for them but feeling their feelings along side them and recognizing that there have most likely been times that you have felt the exact same way. It gives their feelings a space to be safe and reminds them they are not alone. Expressing empathy gives children the chance to affect the life of someone around them. Which is exactly what we strive for at Thrive Kids. We want our kids to grow up to express empathy to those around them because that is how you become a strong, confident leader. If you can't put yourself in someone else's shoes and express empathy then you cannot successful lead and make a difference in this world.
Throughout our Thrive Kids classes we work to help students recognize other children's feelings as we learn new things and do things that are hard. For example, when teaching a new skill there is almost always someone who doesn't know how to do the movement or is too afraid to try. We can help the kids to recognize this and prompt them to express empathy by:
1. Recognizing the other person and their feeling, "Tommy, how are you feeling about this? You seem upset."
2. Validating their feelings, "It's ok, Tommy. I've felt that way before when we did something new."
3. Encourage them while still giving them space, "You can watch me go first and see what it is like. It might help change the way your feeling but if not, that's still ok."
When children express empathy it helps to build confidence on both sides. It will help the child expressing empathy by giving them the opportunity to affect change to someone around them and it also helps them to recognize that just because they have a particular feeling it does not make them wrong, just normal. The more we can help children realize that they have no reason to be ashamed of their feelings then the greater we can affect their confidence. Expressing empathy also helps to build the confidence of the child who is struggling. It helps them to feel heard and understood which can aid in helping them to make positive choices even when having strong feelings. As they become more comfortable working through these feelings they will recognize that they can have strong feelings and still be strong. Which is the ultimate goal.
Sometimes we just need to be heard. To know that we are not alone and that others feel the same way we do. Often times when kids have received this sort of validation they will recognize that they can in fact do the hard thing because they have someone who knows how they feel doing it with them. And, as they do these things even when scared, afraid, or unsure, it helps to build their confidence as they see themselves overcome something that at one time seemed insurmountable.
One way to help build empathy with kids is to make thinking of others a regular part of their day. A quick, simple activity would be to have the child choose one person each day that they can consistently pay attention to and recognize what they are feeling and help as needed. They can write this person's name on their hand or a piece of paper they will see often. As they get used to thinking of a specific person throughout the day they will become more accustom to looking around them and begin to recognize other people and what they need. Goal accomplished.