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Counseling Corner: Teaching by Example

I sat in the passenger seat holding tight to the side of the door as my husband drove us to our destination. He is not a speeder per se but he is definitely not a slow driver. I looked at him with pleading in my eyes (which he could not see because after all he was driving) I said sternly. “Please watch your speed.” He smiled and said “sure.” The light was yellow I am the type of driver to take that as a reminder to put my foot on the break…he took that as a “last call” invitation and went through the light. I looked at him again and a bit more firm with a slightly louder voice I said “be careful that you are not speeding.” He said sure it was a yellow light. The next thing that happened surprised me… “Stop speeding Daddy…be careful. Be safe.” It was a toddler voice from the car seat in the back. This new three year old observed our interactions. He chose sides. He decided that he needed to also fight my case. We laughed and my husband rolled his eyes. Guess what? My son always tells my husband not to speed now. Why is this important? This is important because our children are watching. They are listening. They are observing. They are learning.

Currently in our society many things are going on since the election. People are voicing their thoughts, opinions and beliefs. Some are harmless. Some are harmful. I don’t want to debate either side. I want to remind us that our kids are watching…listening…hearing. If we decide to use language that is unfavorable we have now taught our kids this language. If we choose to be extra cranky to the server at a restaurant our child just learned that this is okay. What we do…is what we teach. It is not enough to tell our kids to treat people with respect…we must do it too. Our kids are sponges but we get to decide what they absorb. Teaching kids empathy is something that is just as useful as teaching them abc’s.

There are many ways that you can do this as a parent. I have started with my own son by making sure he connects the word empathy with asking someone if they are okay when they hurt themselves or when they cry. He absorbed that small lesson pretty fast. Does he still struggle with actually sharing empathy-yep! This is why I keep adding to the lessons. Yesterday we talked about sentences that convey empathy. He decided “don’t worry” was a good phrase. It is a start. 

How do you teach your kids empathy? In what ways do you want to challenge your family to be more caring this month? Share your responses-we would love to hear what you are doing to make our world more kind.
Tara Michener
Author: Tara Michener