Teaching Children Empathy with Manners

As an adult we are put into all kinds of situations that call for us to be, shall we say, civil.  We ask, “How are you?” As a part of seeing or meeting someone.  We may find ourselves saying, “Thank you,” when there was no real feeling of sincere gratitude.  We did not even think about it; the words just came out of our mouth.  So in the world of manners, we all agree that sometimes it is fake.  Other times it comes from our mouths as rote words.


Why would we expect that every time our children receive a gift or service from someone that they will remember to say “thank you”?  In their younger days the world revolves around them, they are self-centered, and they have not learned about empathy.  Here are two more suggestions to help our children learn good manners for the society where they live. These tips may also help them to develop the virtue of empathy.


  1. Show them how to demonstrate empathy.  When we are aware of someone being sick or hurt, being that empathetic person, we will go out of our way to assist them.  When we do an act of kindness like that, we want to talk to our kids about why we took this action. When we serve others in our volunteer work, explain the hurt and suffering that you are trying to assist them.  Then give your children the opportunity to experience giving to those in need. It may begin with their siblings and you.  Then it might grow to help in a project that they can see the good they are doing.  You are now building empathy and behaviors to match.
  2. Teach the manners that are important to you.  Children do not come born with manners.  They have to be taught the manners of the culture where they grow up.  In your community is saying “Yes sir, Yes ma’am” seen as being respectful?  Is looking people in the eye and saying thank you appreciated by those in authority?  What are the expectations of your family, the teachers, police officers, government officials of proper decorum?  Whatever the answer is to those questions, you want to teach your child the expectations and give them the opportunity to practice.


As we teach our kids the expected way of respectful conversation and giving them the opportunity to practice, we are laying the groundwork for them.  It may seem fake at first but remember your grown-up experience. If they practice, though, soon they will be known for their courtesy, caring, generosity, helpfulness, kindness, respect, service, and tact.  Which of those virtues would you like your child to be known for exhibiting?

Like to see the first two suggestions – Click here

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