A recent article from steamboattoday.com claimed that one of the most important, vital characteristics of a good parent is empathy.
The article makes a good case; a parent who can know and understand what their children are feeling are better prepared to help them when they are hurting, find joy with them in their highs, and bond with them on a deeper level. An empathetic parent won’t have their children grow up to say, “My parents just never understood me.”
Many parents have the tendency to be annoyed by their children’s many observations of the world around them. After all, what is new to a child has been seen and understood a thousand times by his parent. But rather than rolling our eyes or sweeping past the tears of a heartbroken ten-year-old, or fallen and hurt toddler, an empathetic parent will take these moments to acknowledge, understand, and heal their child so they are better prepared to handle themselves in the future.
I found this article and this idea particularly interesting, because as many studies have revealed, one of the best ways to learn empathy is through reading literature.
Books and stories help to put in the shoes of someone entirely different than ourselves, see the world from a new perspective, learn things and feel things we hadn’t ever come face-to-face with in our own lives. So what better way to incorporate more empathy into your parenting than to read children’s books? These books can help those of us who may feel long-past our youthful days to see the world from a child’s perspective again, and therefore better understand and empathize with our children. We might not remember what it’s like to be abandoned by our friends at the lunch table, or be bullied by a group of popular kids, or to have a crush write us a note during recess. But children’s books can help us to understand those feelings again.
Better yet, why don’t we read these books with our children. That way, if your child finds something in the book particularly relatable, it will open up a discussion between the two of you. You will come to better understand your child, and you’ll still be learning more and more empathy along the way.
Do you feel that empathy is a valuable component of parenting? How do you demonstrate this to your children? Let me know in the comments!