Empathy, Misbehavior, and Developing a Conscience
Nancy Eisenberg’s article on helping children develop their natural tendencies for empathy touches on issues addressed in three or four of my pieces in this column in the past five years. Though the columns in question have addressed empathy in a variety of ways, the thread is the same: there are actions—easily accomplished actions—we can take in our schools that can help children grow up with a disposition to be aware of others and sensitive to their needs.
The “king” of empathy studies and translating them to the public is Martin Hoffman, whose book Empathy and Moral Development (Cambridge, 2000) is a valuable resource for educators and parents alike. Certainly Hoffman would agree with Nancy Eisenberg’s eight suggestions in this newsletter (he cites her research at several points in his book), but the action he clearly stresses above others entails pointing out the consequences of actions and trying to understand others’ feelings.
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