“Be somebody who makes everybody feel like a somebody.” -Kid President
While visiting with my mom, my daughter took out her phone and her nimble fingers went to work, quickly answering a text from a friend. She went on automatic pilot, tuning us out, as our inter-generational visit quickly came to a halt. My insightful 89-year-old mother smiled and said, “You know, if the telephone would have been invented after the text, people would be thrilled that they could hear the inflection of the human voice on the other end.” We both laughed as my daughter continued to text away.
Later, while reflecting on the wisdom of my mom, I ran across the work of Dr. Michele Borba. Her research brought her to the conclusion that, “with the rise of the selfie has come the fall of empathy,” and sadly—I think she is right. With constant connectivity, our children are losing the human connection. We have replaced emotions with emojis and face-to-face communication with Facebook. In Unselfie, Borba lays out nine fundamentals for developing empathy that parents and teachers can help to instill in our children.
1. Emotional Literacy – Recognizing and understanding the feelings of self and others.
2. Moral Identity – Developing caring values.
3. Perspective Taking – Being able to step into someone else’s shoes.
4. Moral Imagination – Connecting with books, movies, and other images.
5. Self-Regulation – Managing emotions.
6. Practicing Kindness – Increasing the concern for others.
7. Collaboration – Working with others.
8. Moral Courage – Speaking out and helping others.
9. Altruistic Leadership Abilities – Making a difference.
Borba tells us that “the foundation for empathy is face-to-face human connection” and those who practice the habit of empathy have an advantage in this “all-about-me-world” of ours. Just as we work to help our children develop their reading, writing, and math skills, we should consciously build the skills of empathy. Her research shows that the “best predictor of healthy emotional interactions is a lot of face-to-face communication; it’s also the best way to learn emotions and develop human-contact skills.” We want our children to be lifelong learners, but we also want them to develop the skills to interact competently, compassionately, and effectively with others. Maybe it is time to unplug and really communicate to help build the empathy advantage.
Check out how to “activate kids’ empathy” with Dr. Borba.