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The importance of teaching empathy to children

Neuroscientists, psychologists and educators believe that bullying in schools and other kinds of violence can be reduced by encouraging empathy at an early age.

Read How not to raise a bully: The early roots of empathy on Time.com.

Link submitted by a reader via the Lovefraud Facebook fan page.



27 Comments on "The importance of teaching empathy to children"

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  1. OxDrover says:

    There were plenty of psychopaths BEFORE public education. There were psychopaths before it was “illegal” to take a kid out of school and send him home for bad behavior, our educational system doesn’t foster or create psychopaths, so much as they are becoming more visible I think because violence is easy in a school of 1,000 kids with a low number of teachers who don’t really know the students, or the student’s families.

    Even in a one-room school with 60 kids and ONE teacher, order was kept and most parents would support the teacher’s keeping of order. The teacher knew the parents, the parents knew the teacher, they all lived in the same community ande reasonable conduct was expected and ENFORCED by the community and the parents.

    In schools that have students who have no nurturing at home, and order is not kept in the school room, how can anything be taught? In schools where the parents expect the teachers to teach 3Rs AND morals (but don’t mention God, any God!) and keep order without any authority to do so, or to expell the student.

    In Little Rock, Arkansas,40% of the kids go to private schools where their parents pay some pretty stiff tuition to get them in and where BEHAVIOR is mandated or the students are expelled. They generally come out being able to read and write and be ready for college and have some knowledge of how to “behave” in an acceptable manner.

    Unfortunately that leaves the 60% of parents who are either unable or unwilling to pay the tuition for their kids to go to private schools. The public school teachers are left with the kids whose parents don’t care about their kids, and the kids who are in “theraputic foster care” (usually for behavioral problems) and the kids from lower inhcome families, or all of the above. Keeping order in the classroom is the “prime directive” but tends to be “where no man has gone before!” Cameras in the hallways, used condoms frequently found on the school grounds, metal detectors, armed campus cops, and so on.

    Many people also “home school” their kids because the kids are afraid to go to a public school. That also takes effort, time and money.

    I don’t know what the answer is about education in this country but it seems that it is stratifying even more the differences between the haves and the have nots.

    One of the local Universities in the town near me had an on-campus killing not long ago. The first day my P-son went to his new high school in Florida there was a murder on campus.

    Some schools in some areas are better than others about keeping down violence, bullying, etc, but the huge schools we seem to be getting now, vs the “community” schools, de-personalizes the student to student and teacher to student interactions, I think. Let’s go back to the “one room school” and at least teach them to “read and write and cipher!” That’s more than some schools seem to be doing now!



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  2. Rosa says:

    Witsend:

    I can definitely relate to your frustration, and fighting these battles is definitely a full-time job.

    My Mom and I are going to an open house at my niece’s school on Sunday.
    My niece is 6 years old and in kindergarten.

    She has been kicked AND punched in the stomach on 2 separate occasions by a boy in her class named “Jeffrey”.

    Of course, my sister-in-law’s lack of concern over these types of incidents is staggering.
    “She’ll be all right” has been her generic answer for everything concerning her daughter since she was a baby.”
    “I need to ‘break’ her of that” is another favorite line that my sister-in-law uses when she wants to change behavior in my niece….as if this child is a race horse or something.
    That line makes me crazy.

    So, it’s bad enough what this child is going through at home with her narcissistic/psychopathic mother.
    I am not going to stand for bullying going on at school, as well.

    Both times the teacher saw what happened and disciplined the little boy, according to my niece. My niece says, “He’s got a chart”, meaning that he has behavioral issues.

    I don’t care if this boy has a chart or not, if he’s kicking and hitting little girls, he needs to be put in a ED or BD group.

    My Mom and I have practically raised my niece from infancy to age 5. She was not born with a personality disorder, but she was born with the genes.
    She has the ability to love and trust (Thank GOD).
    But, she also has some con-artistry in her.
    Because of the genetic connection to her birth mother, she is an AT RISK CHILD.
    So, the environmental conditions and nurturing that this child receives NOW will be instrumental in how she develops in her teen years.

    I am not this child’s parent, but I’ll be DAMNED if I just sit back and let the devil take over.

    And, the little boy who is hitting my niece is also looking like he could be an at-risk child. It will not be good if he is still hitting girls when he’s 16…or 26.

    So, Mom & I going to the school to meet the teachers/administrators at this open house.
    I’m not sure how I will start the discussion or what I will say.
    But, hopefully I will figure it out.

    If anyone has any suggestions, please feel free to share.

    Am I even doing the right thing by saying anything at all??
    Maybe I should go and just be nice, and try to get a job volunteering at the school or something…work my way in that way.
    I don’t want to make a mistake, and I KNOW I cannot educate the world in a day.
    As you can see, I am very unsure about how to approach this.



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  3. OxDrover says:

    Dear Rosa,

    Having been physically abused on a daily basis by another student, I can empathize very much with your niece. I think if you can talk NICELY to the teacher, and express your “concern” for HER having such problems as trying to control Jeffrey, (a little brown nosing there) but then work in that you are also concerned about how the situation is playing with your niece.

    Also talk to your niece and tell her that you empathize with her being upset about this and that you are speaking with the teacher about your concerns. As a NON parent you don’t have the rights to go in and raise HELL, but as a CITIZEN you have the right to be concerned about ANY child.

    If you don’t get some results from talking to the teacher you might go up a step in the chain of command. If she/he is not able to control Jef then SOMETHING needs to be done to HELP her….and I do admit she may have a big problem with the kid so the admin needs to step in and help her gain control so that the classroom is SAFE.

    So if your “concern” as expressed to the teacher is, do YOU need help from administration to be able to keep the classroom safe, she will feel that you are not attacking her, but empathetic with HER having a difficult job. If it continues to be a problem, and she says “no I don’t need any help” then you know she is NOT able to accomplish this without help from admin, so you will HELP HER by telling ADMIN that the poor teacher needs “help” one way or another so you just come out looking like you are concerned for the SCHOOL and the teacher not a b1atch just griping!



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  4. Rosa says:

    Yes, Ox Drover.
    I need to be systematic about this, even though it is infuriating to me.

    The child is only in kindergarten, so we have a long way to go.



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  5. OxDrover says:

    Dear Rosa,

    Yea, I know, you want to go in there and b1atch slap the kid and the teacher! At least I would! LOL However, by appearing sympathetic with what a difficult job this teacher has with an out of control child (and believe me,, I have worked with these little out of control darlings in IN PATIENT settings with many trained mental health professionals AND drugs and we still had a difficult time corraling some of them.!) So you are not really too far off the mark in empathizing with the teacher. She very well MAY NEED HELP! Like a football lineman to sit on the kid!

    I personally believe that violent kids need “special classes” with ‘special teachers” and this deal of “mainstreaming” every kid, even the ones who are severely retarded and not even potty trained into an age appropriate classroom where they scream and shit themselves which to me deprives the kids who have the ability to learn of an education. Around here every kid NO MATTER HOW DISRUPTIVE or how bad the disability has an “aid” to stay by them one on one—which if the kids is mentally competent to learn and not violent is FINE and I think a good thing that helps the kid, but the violent ones need closer supervision and special class rooms in my opinion.

    There was a big row in Texas a few years back when all this started and the educators were trying to get the ANCHEPALIC kids into age appropriate class rooms. These kids are at the level of a 1 month old, because they do NOT HAVE BRAINS inside their skulls, which are filled with fluid. They are very delicate and usually don’t live long anyway, but with CAREFUL nurturing and medical care can live to as much as 20 or so. The caretakers of these kids did NOT want these delicate kids exposed to bad colds, etc. and there was NO WAY it would help these kids to be in a “normal class ROOM” LOL

    I just want to know where and when ‘COMMON SENSE” in education escaped the classroom and the board room! The teacher may be doing the best she can, so I imagine she will be cooperative with you if you can phrase it as “attempting to help her.” I think you can do this, you’re a smart cookie, Rosa, and you have the patience of Job. I think I would have decked your SIL by now! Maybe your brother as well. (((hugs))))



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  6. learning says:

    Rosa,

    Im not sure what the guidelines are at your schools Open House, but at all three of the different schools my children go to – we are not permitted to approach the teachers on Open House night to discuss individual/personal issues. I only mention this in case it is also one of the guidelines at your nieces school and you immediately get shut down… just something I wanted to share about our Open House events.

    Also, when my now 17 year old daughter was in 1st grade she was bullied by troubled little boy in her grade. So much so that he pinned her up against the lunch table and punched her. He was sent to the principal. My first inquiry would be “Was this child sent to the principal?” How was this child disciplined? Were his parents contacted? IF ANY of these answers are less than acceptable to you or perhaps Grandmom has more of an “in” from the perspective of the school admin feeling comfortable discussing this with her being the “grandmother” — but nonetheless I would simply INQUIRE at open house or via phone that you (and/or Grandmom) would like to schedule a meeting with the teacher and/or Principal/Director. My suggestion is to do the meet and greet and say nothing – and then as a follow up schedule an appointment to discuss the concerns of the incident. You may even be able to meet the parents of the child that night.

    What I did was several things. I called the parents and I said I was made aware of an incident involving our two kids. I asked if anything like this ever happened before (fortunately they answered yes)… but I said I had never been exposed to something of this nature. And I wanted to resolve it right away. Should we do it together with both kids and parents (mostly I felt it would intimidate this little boy enough to know this girls Mom means BUSINESS but I also do feel communicating appropriately about these things with kids like that child might really add to less chance of recurrence at least with my child).

    I also volunteered to be lunch helper. I made sure to say positive things to this kid like great job interacting with everyone and so good to see youve learned not to use your hands on your classmates. And if I saw anything inappropriate I said would you like to go to Principal or can you get it together?

    Lastly, I showed up to a meeting with teacher/principal/guidance counselor. I made sure they were ON TOP OF HIM and kept a keen eye on his behaviors. I really did not take it lightly. Too often it is. But the most beneficial to me was contacting his mother and saying what can we do to help rectify this and have you explained to him that he must never use his hands on classmates…etc…

    Again, this was more of an aggressive bully type kid who would lash out for no reason or because he had anger management issues – but at that age when Mom, and parent and teacher come down on them – most times (but not all) they curtail it or they move on I guess.

    He was eventually pulled out and went to a private school. And his mother was very proactive and receptive to my call. So that helped. Good luck!!!!!!!



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  7. witsend says:

    Rosa,
    Schools have changed alot since we were kids. ALOT. They are dealing with issues that were not in the front page “news” years ago. Bullying is one of them. Hot Topic in schools now days. Especially since the recent suicide of the young girl and the students that are facing charges for this tragedy.

    Addressing bullying in the young grades, WHERE it does really need to START, (addressing it, in a no nonsense approach) probably hasn’t changed as much as we would like it to. Not yet anyway.

    I think it would be a great idea if you could donate your time volunteering at the school! Kindergarten teachers almost always could use a helping hand.

    And I hate to say it but even in the school system….It isn’t always what you know, but WHO you know that counts.

    By volunteering you will get to know the teacher better and how she deals with situations in the classroom just by observing. You will also get to observe little Jeffery.
    You will also get to know some of the administration of the school just by being a presence at the school.
    Teachers always need extra “hands” on field trips or special presentations ect. And lots of this special stuff goes on late in the school year.
    And first grade is no different. You can continue donating your time into next year as well if necessary.

    And your voice will be heard differently than if you just came in out of “nowhere” as the aunt with a complaint. Because you will have figured out the best way to approach after your own observations.



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  8. teacher123 says:

    OxDrover,
    You sound like you know what is going on in schools today. It is frustrating dealing with kids who are “mainstreamed” even though they probably shouldn’t be in a regular classroom. I have kids who function on the 1st and 2nd grade level in the 5th grade. And like this wild child Jeff, some kids have Behavioral Intervention Plans which teachers are required to follow by law which include private talks with students about their bad behaviors. So, these kids get to do all kinds of crap while the teacher has to walk on eggshells by following the behavior plan set by a team of people to include the parent.
    Anyway, Learning has some good advice there. You have to take action because maybe then something will get done about the situation. We have a kid at our school who is a K student out of control. My 5th grade students tell me that he curses at them every day when they come in the building. And he uses almost every word in the book including the F-bombs. He pulls hair, hits other kids, etc… But part of the free education deal is that we cannot deny students this right. Another trend in our district is that they try to keep the kids in the classroom as much as possible because that is where learning takes place. They almost have to burn the school down to be removed. I had a student who stole a cell phone from another student, charged hundreds of dollars on porn calls with it, and put a porn picture backdrop/wallpaper on it. He was back in class after 2 days.



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  9. OxDrover says:

    Dear Teacher123,

    I can top that one, teacher friend of mine (male), jumped in to help a 110 pound female teacher who was being attacked by a 300+ pound male student who was beating her. The student hit my friend on his neck/shoulder joint with his elbow temporaryily totally paralyzing my friend from the neck down and seriously injuring him, leaving him barely able to walk now 3 years later. Kid got suspended for 3 days–that was IT!

    And you wonder why people home school their kids or send them to private school? I don’t.

    As long as our teachers are expected to try to police this AND teach kids—-LEARNING IN THE CLASSROOM IS not gonna happen.

    My step dad was a teacher/coach for many years and none of this behavior would have been tolerated in the schools I went to or he taught at. But even the “dumbest” kid came out being able to read and write and do basic arithmatic pretty close to grade level.

    I’m frankly glad I don’t have any kids or grandkids in public school, and would home school them if I did have. That may not be the answer for society, but I think it would be a way to porotect my kids from the violence. The new home school associations around here have all kinds of things and have all kinds of extra aqctivities like ball teams and trips and my son D occasionally teaches classes for a group of home schoolers that bring their kids out here for special classes in advanced science etc. Nice kids, bright kids, and caring parents! Dedicated parents. I know that the interactions in classes are good, but I’d just as soon my kid didn’t get brutalized in public school.



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