As parents we are expected to be master multitaskers – constantly juggling a myriad of things both physically and mentally. Daily to-do lists are seemingly endless and on those lists (or constantly at the back of your mind) are the values, life lessons and morals that you want to instill in your children.

Many of the obvious ones are teaching your children about honesty, fairness, kindness, learning to share and learning what generally speaking is “right” and what is “wrong”. And while these are great things to start with, one emotion that parents sometimes gloss over in their teachings is that of empathy.

This may sound strange, but you want your children to grow into well-rounded, compassionate human beings, able to act with empathy. Some even believe that the ability to see life through someone else’s perspective serves as the foundation for healthy relationships into the future, as well as other important emotions, namely gratitude and hope.
Being able to tune into other people’s emotions can happen from a young age, and technically it usually happens organically. But in the name of good parenting, it’s a great idea to help the process along by encouraging situations that allow your children to feel empathy! Here are some good parenting tips for doing just this:

Practice gratitude during mealtimes:

Mealtimes are extremely important times for families to bond. You can ensure that it’s a time of gratitude either for something that happened, something that you have or of course, for the food (you don’t have to be religious to practise being grateful for the food). A good parenting tip is also to use this time to show appreciation for each other by each person at the table offering one thank you or one compliment directed at someone else sitting at the table.

Let your children learn from you:

Good parenting means setting the example for your children, and make no mistake, they will use you as the yardstick. If a waitress at a restaurant mixes up your meal order, try to practice patience and understanding. You can even ask your children questions relating to the incident such as: “How do you think the waitress felt about getting the order wrong? Why do you think it might have happened?”.

Acknowledge your children's’ acts of kindness:

When it comes to good parenting you want to acknowledge when your children do something good or kind. For example, if you see your child let one of their friends have a turn on his bicycle, you can draw attention to it, and ask how he thinks his friend might feel about not having a bicycle of his own. However, don’t praise your children on everything that they do – it may lead to them becoming too focussed on getting the praise and less on other people.

Show your children that you understand them:

When it comes to good parenting it can be pretty difficult to balance boundaries and empathy. By allowing your child to throw a massive tantrum because you won’t buy her the doll she wants is a big no-no. But if your child is beside herself because she fell and hit her head hard, then you need to show her that you are sorry that she has hurt herself and help her to feel better. That way they know they can’t manipulate you emotionally but you also show them respect and understanding when their feelings are valid.

Have conversations about tolerance:

Whenever an opportunity arises to speak about respect, acceptance and tolerance, grab it! Help your children understand that people’s differences should be celebrated and that all people should be treated the same. Don’t overly celebrate any acts of kindness that your children may show in this regard, but let them know it is the right and normal way to behave.
This should give your children a great foundation for empathy. If you are interested in other good parenting tips then download our ebook: A Mother’s Guide to Raising Successful Children.