EMPATHY: A VITAL INGREDIENT IN PARENTING

To feel someone’s pain has far too often been considered empathy. However, a standard definition of empathy by emotion researchers is the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling. Empathy is a choice and the product of a dynamic decision process based on motivation.

Growing up, there were many occasions I wished my parents could see things from my point of view but they could not understand and instead superimposed their opinions on me and my siblings. These actions pushed me into the hands of peer influence, cold-hearted adolescents, bold enough to defy their parent’s instructions. My parents constantly reprimanded me, but I cared less at some point.

Statistics show that empathetic parenting involves parents guiding children to become emotionally aware.

Rather than disciplining a child for wrongdoing, providing explanations as to why discipline is needed will help the child recognise right from wrong. It has been suggested that parents’ empathy plays an important factor in the parent-child relationship, by moderating child behaviour.

In academic research by the National Centre for Bio-Technology Information, school and home are the two main living environments of school-age children. Parents structure children’s home environment and implement family parenting. Their ability to handle their emotional problems and accept and cope with their children’s emotional problems can substantially affect children’s social competence and mental health. Research has shown that parental negative emotional expressions can trigger childhood destructive behaviour problems.

Parents of children with a persistent tendency to disobey cannot accurately perceive their own emotions and have poorer emotional regulation and management skills. Parental empathy may be another factor that affects children’s social abilities.

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In addition, parents with strong empathy provide their children with a safe foundation from which children can explore their emotional experiences and seek comfort when experiencing emotional distress.

A case study shows that children and adolescents with high levels of empathy are more accepted by their peers. Preschoolers aged between 3 and 6 years who are perceived by their teachers as defenders and mediators ( pro-social role) have better affective empathy, although cognitive empathy is not taken into account.

In conclusion, empathy is beyond a value I believe in but a principle that is needed in life and parenting. We should all be empathetic, with empathy is healing. Start today to truly listen to the soul of a person more than their words, and share their pain, joy and laughter. Live by being empathetic.

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