Where Is The Empathy?

Magnifier with question mark isolated on white.The WSJ online edition ran a story entitled: Little Children and Already Acting Mean (Children, Especially Girls, Withhold Friendship as a Weapon; Teaching Empathy

According to research by Charisse Nixon, chair of the psychology department at Penn State Erie, “50% of children and adolescents—grades five through 12—have experienced relational aggression at least monthly. About 7% of children report experiencing physical aggression on a daily or weekly basis.”

The article also quoted Laura Barbour, a counselor at Stafford Primary School in West Linn, Oregon: “Kids forget about scuffles on the playground but they don’t forget about unkind words or being left out.”

So how should these issues be handle before they become problems? Mark Barnett, a developmental psychologist at Kansas State University, thinks he has the answer. Barnett says parents should teach their children affective empathy. He believes children should learn to vicariously experience the emotions of another person.

As I read Barnett’s suggestions, I thought I was hearing the principles of Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

Before you can guide your children down the right path of life, first, you need to walk it yourself.

Look at your life through a magnifying glass, and what do you see? Does the evidence point to a life of rivalry and conceit or one of humility and service to benefit the needs of others?

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