Teaching Empathy

I’m struggling with teaching Tornado E empathy.  I understand that at his age he doesn’t have much and he’s not suppose to, but I think he lacks more than he should.  So I came up with the Kindness Tree.  I’m still learning from other moms.

Like my friend, the mother of K & G.  (I really should give her a nickname; I’ll have to think on that.)  We were hanging out the other day as our kids played together.

Friend: I don’t get K.  She is just so self-centered all the time.  She only thinks about herself.  When her brother wants to play with her, she won’t play with him until he plays what she wants.  And if he starts winning or trying to change the game, she just pouts until she gets her way.  Seriously, what the hell?  And then the other day G bought a video game, and K refused to pitch in, but as soon as we got home, she ripped into it and tried to play AND be number 1 player!  I made her stop and sit outside the room; while, I asked G if he wanted K to play.  He answered no and that he wanted to play by himself a little bit.  So I made K wait 15 minutes before asking G if he wanted his sister to play.  Or today!  She wanted to play with another friend and threw a fit when she heard we were coming here.  She said she didn’t like Tornado E as much as her other friend.  Are you kidding me?  She loves Tornado E!  I told her she wasn’t allowed to say that to Evan and hurt his feelings and told her how mean that was to say.  I. Just. Don’t. Know. What. To. Do. With. Her.

This probably was a good time to break out the beers, but it was nearly dinner and they had to leave soon.  So I told her about the Kindness Tree.

Me: Or when you watch shows and movies with her discuss how the characters are acting and feeling.  When someone does something hurtful or mean, ask K if she thought that was wrong and ask her why.  Ask her what she thought the other characters felt.  Ask her what she would do different if she was the villain.  Ask her how she would feel being the other character.  Talk to her.  Show her.  It’s natural for them to be self-centered, but damn, I know.  Tornado E.  I could wring his neck sometimes.  But we discuss empathy.  It’s part of the family motto.  “Ædificabat insolitam superesse.”  I tell them to survive an adventure they needed intelligence, courage, and empathy.  God, parenting is hard.

Friend: No kidding.

And like most conversations that I have, I don’t relate them here.  Unless they seem interesting or important or funny.  Or ironic.

The next day, we went out for dessert with the boys.  As we sat there, a waitress came over to talk to the boys.  When we told her their ages, she told us about her 3-almost-4yr-old daughter, who goes to daycare down the street.

Waitress: One day she comes home singing a song that I don’t know.  And I have to look it up.  She likes Justin Bieber.  The before and after care girls taught her about him.  And now she’s like obsessed.  Which is so weird because all I play is country.  The other day she and her best friend made three 7 yr olds cry because she told them that they weren’t Justin Bieber’s girlfriends; she and her bff were his girlfriends.  They weren’t pretty enough to be Justin Bieber’s girlfriends.

My jaw dropped.  God, girls are mean.  And they’re starting out young.  And why are 7yr olds and 4yr olds listening to Justin Bieber, and aren’t they all a little young to be thinking about boyfriends?  And God, girls are mean.

Waitress: The school called me and told me, and I was like what do you expect me to do about it.

Me: Teach her empathy-

Waitress: Ground her?  It’s their job to watch the kids.  I talked to other mom, and she thought it was hilarious.  I mean 3-almost-4yr olds taking on 7yrs olds and making them cry.  My girl sure is tough.

Me: Sure, if making other kids cry is tough.

But like the comment before, she didn’t hear me say this one.  Or chose to.

Apparently we all approach empathy a little differently.

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