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1 Powerful Phrase That Actually Creates Empathy in Young Children



If you're in charge of very young children, infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, everything you say and do every day matters greatly to their development. You probably realize that but, just in case.........


It's an enormous responsibility with little monetary and societal payoff, but neuroscientists like Erin Claybough author of Second Nature: How Parents Can Use Neuroscience to Help Kids Develop Empathy, Creativity, and Self-Control know it to be true.


" There are concrete steps you can take to raise an awesome person. The younger the children, the larger the empathy gains will be. " -Erin Claybough Ph.D-

I'm not getting paid to link to her book. I think she's fascinating and right on target for what this country needs more of.


And what does this country need the most? In my mind, it's to develop trust between the races. And also between the political parties and the politicians and lawmakers themselves.

We need to raise a strong group of leaders who are not only able to lead but who care about humanity more than their own portfolios.


Oh, and by the way, early childhood teachers, administrators, parents, grandparents, nannies, and other caregivers are in charge of that.


And that's because the actual experiences young children have between the ages of birth-three will have a huge impact on the way they think and the way their attitudes develop. Approximately 80% of all the brain connections that will ever be formed are formed before the age of 3.


If we want leaders who are both empathetic and strong, we have to start nurturing them today and we have to start early!


The hand the rocks the cradle rules the world.

-William Ross Wallace-



But it’s my job in The Empathy Lab to pick through all of the current science of emotions and boil lit down to what we can use. It's true, we can provide the experiences that kids need today to make the kind of tough choices they’ll make in the future!


So this week I'm giving you the first of 3 magical phrases to use over and over again with your young children. Remember it’s repetition that forms patterns and habits. So much of our lives are ruled by habits that it's good to develop positive ones that can offset any negative ones we may pick up later.


My information comes from a 43-year career of applying research in education, early childhood education, and human development to real-life experiences in the lives of young children. I know what works.


I used 3-word sentences because I know from experience that they work the best. Even adults respond well to short and direct statements and requests.


Phrase # 1 There you are!


Everyone needs to matter to someone. They need to be seen and observed for signs of where they are developmentally and where they need to go next. They need to be watched carefully so they don’t actually injure their brains because that has a huge impact on future mental health.


They need to be noticed. They need to hear their names frequently and not only when

they’ve done something wrong. I wrote about that in a recent blog post entitled "Nurturing Empathy-Say My Name".


Maries story


Marie was a quiet 3-year-old and she seemed to do just fine with the other children during the day at her childcare center but lately, drop-off had gotten really hard for her and her Dad. I had only a little bit of time to help her adjust. I'd see her and her Dad from across the room discussing things. Her Dad looked pretty calm but Marie looked agitated and it was getting worse every day.


As I approached I decided to try singing Marie a little song instead of trying to convince her of anything.


"Smile a little smile for me, my Marie. What's the use in crying?"


She chuckled. (By the way, I would never deny a child her emotions. She just needed a little bit of attention to cheer her up and I wanted to use her name.) I could see in her eyes that she felt noticed. She said goodbye to Dad and took my hand to join some children. I continued with the little song every day for a long while and it always did the trick. I wish everything in ECE were that easy.


I See You!

Use this phrase generously throughout your days with young children. Use it with their names. Play peek-a-boo frequently and with enthusiasm. It's the thought behind the words that really matters to them. Everyone wants to feel important so make them important to you.


Next week, I’m going to cover the second magical phrase, “I understand you!” So stay tuned for that.

If you’re not already a member you can sign up here and get next week's post delivered right to your inbox so you don't accidentally miss it. When you join our community of VIPS (Very Important Parents and Providers) you’ll also get a special gift delivered immediately. It's my slideshow called, "How To Get Your Kids To Listen Without Yelling Or Time-Outs"


It includes 22 examples of real-life phrases that really work with young children due to the developmental principles they encompass. Included are phrases you already use and some that you maybe haven’t tried yet. It’s a real gem that you can use right away with kids to get results and feel good about it, too.


The guide also includes a short explanation of why each phrase works developmentally so it’s a great resource to share with parents and other professionals.


.Here's a really short (24 seconds) video and song to share my favorite philosophies with you Enjoy!

Nanci J Bradley is an early childhood and family educator, author, teacher, family aerobics instructor, and an all-around fun-loving person. She believes in the power of sleep, healthy eating, lifelong learning, and most of all, PLAY! She studied early childhood ed at Triton College and received her BS in education in 1986 from NIU. She received her MA in human development from Pacific Oaks College in 2011. She lives and teaches in Madison WI.











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