How to Teach Your Child Empathy

She prays for me.  She really does.  As my daughter and I say our bedtime prayers, instead of asking God for a new 3-storey Barbie dollhouse, she prays that God keeps me healthy and takes away my pain (that was on a night that I was having a massive headache).    I am left dumbfounded at the fact that at her age, she is able to display empathy- effortlessly, at that! 

Empathy is defined as the ability to understand how another one is feeling.  It’s being able to put yourself in another’s shoes.  It means, you’re aware that other people have feelings too, and react to certain situations in pretty much the same way you would.  It’s a learned skill which is borne out of constant practice. 

When a child reaches preschool age, that’s the best time to start teaching him the value of empathy.  This is the age when a child begins to connect his emotions with the feelings of other people.  He realizes that the world doesn’t revolve entirely around him.

Whether we like it or not, we parents are our kids’ best teachers of empathy.  We may not hold a master’s degree in empathy, but we are well-equipped to mentor our children in that department.  We should go easy, though, and not ram it down their throats. 

So, how do we exactly teach our kids empathy? We start with ourselves.  Teaching by example always works, doesn’t it?  We show our kids that we care about how other people feel.  We show them that we do not yell at the mailman or laugh at the old lady who tripped on the sidewalk.

Talk about hypothetical situations with your kid.  Say things like, “How would you feel if you had a physical disability and couldn’t hear, for instance?”  Let your kid talk about his feelings and how he would react if other kids laughed at him for his impairment.

Read books about empathy to your child.  There are tons of children’s books out there with empathy as the theme.  After reading with your kid, discuss how the characters showed empathy, and try relating the story to everyday life.

As sure as I look hot in this red tank top, so is empathy undoubtedly a skill children- and adults- should master.  Children who are empathic tend to excel in school, in social situations, and in their careers as adults.  Start them off young, and you’ll be paving the way for a lifetime of success for your kids.



About Pepper

I am a single working mom, trying to raise my kid the best way I know how. Join me as I navigate my way through the jungle that is Single Mom-hood, armed with rose-colored glasses and strength of spirit. As pepper adds spice to food, so does my daughter add spice to my life. She makes life no less than…PEPPERRIFIC!

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  1. Great parenting post!

  2. Optimistic Mom says

    It is important to teach empathy to our children. I do think it starts at home with the parents and family. Children need to know how to care and know that they are cared for.

  3. Being a good example to our kids is always the best Peps..before we go to sleep my daughter has her own prayer and she always prays for our protection and our health..even my 3 yr. old boy usually prays for my heart ailment..the three of us always prays for our love ones before we go to sleep and gives a tight hug after..

    nice post Peps..

  4. Not sure if compassion and empathy are ingrained in our genetic makeup or learned merely by teaching. I’d like to think that every human being has the capacity to be empathetic and compassionate, but certainly kids have to be directed in that area.

    Since my son has Autism, that is a skill we work on alot. To most kids with Autism that is all they see, their world, they tune so much out. But he is the kindess little boy, who will save the last cookie for his sister and always share anything he has, so it must be working!

  5. that’s a really great entry you have there … I learned a few things here and there and will apply it to my kid

  6. i think kids learn most by example :D

    Our Family



  7. My son is 4 years old na sis Pep, and yes he displays empathy too at his very young age:) maybe because it is how he sees how we deal with other people:)

  8. Teaching empathy is SO important. I feel like if more children learned about empathy at earlier ages maybe there would be less problems with bullying. Every little bit helps.

  9. Mrs. Pancakes says

    As a social worker this totally warms my heart! As a future mama someday I totally inspired by this post. Certain characteristics does have to be developed!! Awesome info. Your daughter sounds amazing! Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  10. Hi Pepper, thanks for dropping by at mu blog.

    I thought before having to change their diapers.. my parenting responsibility ends.. but true even the virtue of empathy is every parents responsibility to teach them… great post.. dropping by :-)

  11. Empathy is a nice attribute to have. Aside from being sensitive to the needs of others, it makes our children emotionally intelligent, too. Thanks for leaving a comment on my Mommy Moments’ entry.

  12. May I suggest further resources to learn more about empathy and compassion.
    The Center for Building a Culture of Empathy
    The Culture of Empathy website is the largest internet portal for resources and information about the values of empathy and compassion. It contains articles, conferences, definitions, experts, history, interviews,  videos, science and much more about empathy and compassion.

  13. Education Degree Program says

    Really a very good post. Childhood is a stage at which child moulds his feelings and this stage is the best one to teach child about empathy as this will help him keep surrounded with positive vibes in rest of his life. Thankx for such a positivistic post.

  14. Even adults can have trouble with empathy. For instance, some adults would shrink from offering a wounded person first aid, not because they are callous but because they have trouble coping with their own emotional reactions to the other person’s plight. So I don’t think of empathy as something you either have or lack. There are degrees of empathy, and, with practice and an understanding of psychology, we can probably develop stronger empathic skills.

  15. Toby Hanks says

    I absolutley agree with you, that should every parent know.

  16. Andy Ascent says

    First of all, you have to be a good example for your kids.Otherwise, no education
    will work.Thats the most important thing.

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