put yourself in someone else’s shoes

Have you ever walked through a store with a toddler, only to have them loudly say something like, “Mommy, look at that fat man!” 

As embarrassing as this is, it’s a fairly normal part of development. While children start learning empathy the moment they are born, it isn’t a well-developed part of their repertoire until as late as five years of age. Luckily, you can start teaching them empathy the first day of their lives, and it’s never too late to learn to be empathetic.

how do you treat them?
Before your youngsters can learn how to put themselves in other people’s shoes, they must first learn how to walk in their own. How you treat them when they’re having a bad day can show them how to act around others—and that’s not always a good thing.

Have you ever given your child a smack on the rump at the same time you’ve told them not to hit another? Embarrassing your child by yelling at them loudly in the store for a similar crime is not a great way of teaching them better.

Instead, gently explain to them that saying these things might hurt the man’s feelings. By treating your child gently and kindly when he’s having a bad day or saying something wrong, you’ll better enable him to treat a peer nicely when they’re having a bad day as well.

This style of learning begins in infancy. When your day old baby cries, how you soothe him will be the first elements of learning empathy, but no
matter how old your child is, it’s not too late to start.

help them see the other side daily
Once your child is four or five, his discussions will probably be full of events to share with you. Another kid at school is going to Disney World with his family! The kid at preschool fell down and needed a band-aid!

These stories can be great opportunities to help kids put themselves in the shoes of another. How exciting it must be for the kid going to Disney World. Are they nervous about going to another state? Are they excited about all the fun rides? 

How sad that the kid at preschool fell down. It must have hurt, getting a scratch on his knee. Did they feel better after getting a band-aid? Was he able to have fun and play, or did he need to rest for a while?

Conversations like these can help your child practice walking in the shoes of others. You can also help by noticing their empathetic behaviors. Even toddlers can manage empathetic behavior, such as bringing a favorite toy to a crying parent. These beginning efforts are a great sign that your child is already learning.

A child who can understand the feelings of others will benefit greatly as they grow up. Empathy helps you work well with others, helps you lead effectively, and opens doors that might otherwise be closed. An empathetic person will have an easier time relating to people in their life, and make the world a better place if they have learned the skill of understanding others. You can help them, by showing them how to walk in other people’s shoes.

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books to help encourage empathy
Books are a wonderful tool to use when reinforcing an understanding of empathy in our little ones. Along with teaching through example and talking to your child as the circumstances arise, reading to them can also help you reinforce this message of empathy and compassion towards others. Here are some great books we found for you!

Stand in My Shoes: Kids Learning About Empathy by Bob Sornson Ph.D.

You, Me and Empathy: Teaching children about empathy, feelings, kindness, compassion, tolerance and recognising bullying behaviours by Jayneen Sanders

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts


coloring fun
Please enjoy this free Tot Tails coloring page to help share this message with your child.


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