The Gift of Empathy

From the moment my kids were born people have called me lucky. Sometimes because I have twins, sometimes because I have a boy and a girl, sometimes because they are cute, but mostly because they are well behaved. I’m the first person to put my hand up and admit that the first three of those circumstances are absolutely the result of good luck, but I’ll be damned if I won’t take credit for the way they behave. It’s funny – if a child behaves badly in the supermarket you can be sure that the majority of bystanders will be silently judging the parents, but when they’re good no one ever says “Wow, your kids are so amazing, you must be an amazing parent”. It’s always “you’re so lucky”.

But the purpose of this post isn’t to show off about what a great parent I am, or how perfect my kids are (because they’re not perfect, they’re human). The purpose is to share one very simple secret – the secret to having great kids. Teaching them to be polite, to use good manners, to look at people when they speak and to share their toys are all part of it, but what you really need to do is teach your kids to be kind and compassionate.

To point out that not sharing is selfish will never be as valuable as explaining how sad it makes the child that doesn’t get to play. Telling a child that using good manners is polite will never stick in the same way that making them realise how happy it makes other people feel when you thank them for something does.

Children can figure out important life lessons for themselves if they understand the effect that their behaviour has on other people. To teach a child empathy is one of the greatest gifts that you can give them. To teach a child how to be loved is as important as teaching them how to be safe.

So when my 5 year old son tells me for no reason that I’m too special for words, or when my daughter tells me unprompted that she loves me more than it’s possible to love, I do most definitely feel lucky… but not as much as I feel proud.