--> Getting It Right: Teaching Empathy

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Teaching Empathy

Is it possible to teach our children to be caring and compassionate, or is empathy innate – you either have it or you don’t?

Mary Gordon, a recent Order of Canada recipient believes that babies are the key to introducing and reinforcing the ideas of compassion.

As the founder of Roots of Empathy, an innovative program that puts babies in classrooms, Mary Gordon believes that seeing helpless children build bonds with a loving parent over the course of a school year, lessens incidences of bullying.

With rashes of teenage “swarmings” near Skytrain stations and other suburban locations, and the beating death of Reena Virk still fresh in our minds, the newest generation of young adults seems slightly lost.

Of course, there are many teenagers and children who are caring, contributing members of society, but it only takes one or two anti-social ones to wreck havoc on a community.

Roots of Empathy is a simple concept. At the beginning of the school year, a mother (or father) brings a newborn baby to visit a classroom. The visits are repeated once a month until June. In between encounters with the baby, a trained instructor uses the baby’s interaction with his parent and the children as a springboard for discussions about caring, compassionate, kindness and other empathy-related topics.

In previous generations, children would have been far more likely to observe their mother or father with one of their ten younger brothers and sisters, but because of smaller families with two working parents, children can grow up without having even held another baby.

Kid #1 had “Bremmen” and his mom visit her classroom in grade two. As she related to me: “I learned that babies need a lot of help and they change fast.” What she probably wasn’t able to verbalize was the changes in behaviour that post-program research has revealed.

Dr. Kim Schonert-Reichl, an associate professor at UBC’s Department of Education, has been studying the results of Roots of Empathy, both here in Canada, as well as in New Zealand and, more recently, Taiwan.

Universally, children who go through the program emerge far less likely to bully and more likely to intervene if they observe the victimization of the fellow classmate, rather than passively observing.

Over 68,000 Canadian children in eight Canadian provinces have participated in a Roots of Empathy program. It is funded by private foundations, private corporations and the public education systems.

It isn’t the only solution to raising an emotionally healthy caring generation, but Roots of Empathy type programs are an excellent addition.

Mary Gordon and Kim Schonert-Reichl are both participating in the Dalai Lama’s Educating the Heart Dialogue in early September, when the Dalai Lama returns to open his new centre in Vancouver. More information can be found at www.dalailamacentre.com

Erin Airton is guest hosting for Sean Leslie on CKNW Saturday and Sunday 4-6pm.

As published August 3, 2006 in 24 Hours.


At 9:25 AM, Blogger YVRpilot said...

Darn it!
Missed it again... (went fishin'!)

At 2:13 AM, Anonymous Larry said...

Personal opinion,let kids have fun and disregard the teaching institutions on a regular weekdays base that is. For the first four years, the moms and dads can teach but generally let kids have fun they will naturally self explore.Later they will get more than enough government run teaching institutions. Once aweek Sunday School usually teaches good ethics plus gains friendships and fun events there too for kids.

At 8:06 AM, Blogger Bernie said...

What self-respecting mother
would let a bunch of snot-nosed kids handle her precious, fragile
infant baby for several hours
a week?

We must restore the two parent
household, mom and dad.
Then you'll have kids
who grow up to respect
others, have compassion for others,
and become achievers instead
of becoming criminals and sluts.

Get The Atheist State out
of the education business.
Education can be done through
COMPETITIVE, voluntary, private, decentralised organisations.
Let parents send their
kids to schools that teach
belief in a Creator God
and good moral values, respect
compassion, etc.


At 8:12 AM, Blogger Bernie said...

( also lack of respect and compassion for others )

"Women," wrote Ramsey Clark in l970, in his celebrated book Crime in America, "are not a threat to the public." But he also wrote, in discussing the male juvenile criminals who are a threat to the public, that "three-fourths came from broken homes." That means mostly female-headed homes. That means that while the single mothers of these criminals do not themselves commit crimes and go to prison, the socialization they give their children has an extraordinarily high correlation with the male crime of the next generation. This socialization, in fact, is the "root cause of crime" which Clark wrote his book to explore. He had found the explanation he sought and he didn't know it. It was concealed by the generation-long time-lag between cause and effect and by the sex-switch between generations: like hemophilia, crime is manifested in males but carried and transmitted by females--or rather by single females.

If we are to deal meaningfully with crime, what must be seen is its relationship with the female-headed family. Most criminals come from female-headed families. Most gang members come from female-headed families. Most addicts come from female-headed families. Most rapists come from female-headed families. Most educational failures come from female-headed families. Every presidential assassin before Hinckley came from a female-headed family or one in which he had an impossibly bad relationship with his father. Most illegitimate births occur to females who themselves grew up in female-headed families.

If we are to deal meaningfully with crime, what we must do is reduce the number of female-headed families; what we must do is prevent the divorce courts from expelling half of society's fathers from their homes; what we must do is terminate a welfare system which displaces millions of men from the principal male role, that of family-provider. What we must do is make the father the head of the family.
The Garbage Generation:

At 8:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Bernie and his root cause of crime. How nice to blame the mother who is supporting the child financially and emotionally to the best of her ability. What about the FATHER!!!! It is his responsibility to be a MALE ROLE MODEL to his son. AS hard as any mother tries to provide that it can really only be provided by the child's father. Wether or not he is married to the mother the blame goes to all the fathers who abandon their sons before or after they are born. You support this point with your comment about Hinkley and his "impossible relationship with his father". Way to blame that parent that cared enough to stick around. The divorce courts and the welfare system do not expell nad diplace the fathers. They are welcome to be part of their children's lives and emotionally and financially support their children. They are choosing to walk away. Get a clue.

At 1:00 AM, Anonymous consejo comprar yate said...

Here, I do not actually think this is likely to have success.


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