According to child psychologist, Michele Borba, there is one critical life lesson that we must make sure to teach our children.
She argues that this particular skill doesn’t come with the child. It doesn’t develop naturally like walking or talking might.
The lesson? Empathy.
Defined simply as the “ability to understand and share the feeling of another,” empathy is a skill that child psychologists argue is severely lacking in the modern world.
Empathy is the "ability to understand and share the feeling of another." Image via iStock.
She says “Self-promotion, personal branding, and self-interest at the exclusion of others’ feelings, needs, and concerns...is permeating our culture and slowly eroding our children’s character." The likes of Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat and a host of others, all encourage a degree of narcissism unseen in previous generations. In Borba's words, we've replaced the 'we' with 'me'.
The dip in youth empathy is said to contribute to bullying, cheating, racism, peer cruelty, mental health issues, suicide rates and an inability to perform basic moral reasoning.
There has been a dip in youth empathy. Image via iStock.
In her aptly named book 'UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World', Borba passionately argues that kids who are taught how to empathise, are able to better understand others, collaborate more effectively, problem solve, and ultimately are more happy and successful. They are, in Borba's words, more able to "navigate the emotional minefields and ethical challenges."
Well, that is all very well and good. But how is empathy actually taught?
It is argued that basic habits should be formed in younger children. These include emotional literacy, which means understanding the feelings and needs of themselves and other people, moral identity, knowing the difference between right and wrong, and perspective. Skills like moral imagination can be fostered through reading books together and watching films. Parents are encouraged to talk to their kids about the characters' feelings. There's a great list of emotionally charged movies here.