Reinforcing positive attitudes such as respect, empathy and caring begins by teaching children the how and why behind actions and emotions. Parents and caregivers can start these lessons by talking about feelings and consequences at even the earliest age.
Kiddie Academy’s Claire Haas offers the following age-appropriate tips for teaching empathy:
18 month – 2 year old:
Children this young simply do not feel empathy for others, or easily express their emotions.
Tip: Talk about how your child’s actions impact other people. Lay the groundwork by demonstrating the proper behavior and offer praise when “catching” your child do the right thing.
3 year old:
Limit your child’s ability to make a wrong choice while still allowing them to show concern for others.
Tip: Ask “Would you like to share toy A or toy B with Jimmy?”
4 year old:
Empathy for others’ feelings really begins to develop at about four year old.
Tip: Ask “How do you think Anne felt when you took away the blocks?”
Haas also stresses the importance of being a positive role model. Children of all ages study their parents and caregivers for “clues” on how to behave.
“Character education is a critical part of our ‘Life Essentials’ curriculum at Kiddie Academy,” says education expert Claire Haas, who serves as vice president of education for Kiddie Academy. “Childhood is when personality begins to take shape. Our program teaches even the youngest students to care for and respect each other in a developmentally appropriate fashion.”