Today, I'll share with you a really fun tip for creating empathy that works for all ages throughout the lifespan but I'll focus on kids, for now.
Let's start with a question.
What's the first thing you say to a child when they fall down on the ground, but it doesn't look serious.
A. Awww...no! poor baby.
B. You're OK!
C. Brush it off! Keep going!
D. Are you OK?
E. All of the above?
The answer is D. Are you OK?
C. Brush it off, works sometimes but that's because it's a good distraction. In the long run, it doesn't teach them what we really want them to know.
But why D. Are you OK?
Do you ever automatically say "you're OK" before your child even reacts to a fall? If so, think about why you say it that way. Now, don't feel guilty, you didn't do it "wrong" or harm your child's mind in any way. For years I used different variations of all of the above and I'm sure everyone is just fine. Even empathetic.
I just want to show you something that works better because you deserve "secrets" from the childcare profession. I'm speaking from my 43 years of experience with kids and also my graduate degree in human development. Remember sometimes childcare providers have to care for as many as 10 kids at once or more! We need tips that work.
Anyways, Try asking, "Are you OK?" instead of anything else for a while and you'll be amazed at the way their attitudes change!
This is why.
Most kids will start to evaluate their situation themselves when you ask them to. That's what you want them to do. The alternative is crying or whining or yelling for your help right away so you can check it out. They may, in fact, need your help or they may not but they learn more and cry less through self-evaluation.
When kids see they're OK and feel like they can keep playing, they will. That's because play is the way kids learn!
And they're learning empathy because they're always watching you!
Make sure you listen to what they say after you ask. You're not in their bodies so you don't know how much it hurts. And remember,
It's OK to say you're not OK.
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Nanci J Bradley is an early childhood and family educator, author, teacher, SELF-care facilitator, 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.