Teach kids empathy.
Dr. Markham emphasizes the importance of teaching kids empathy as the starting point for creating a peaceful home. "Children develop empathy by having the experience of feeling understood themselves," she says. So how do you do that?
"You soothe them when they're upset," Dr. Markham explains. "All humans have mirror neurons so we pick up other people's emotions. But sometimes we find another person's emotions too upsetting, particularly if we are uncomfortable with our own emotions. So when parents soothe an upset child, the child learns that emotions aren't dangerous, and becomes more comfortable with his own emotions — and more able to tolerate and empathize with the emotions of others."
But that's not all; consistency is key. She says it's imperative to talk about emotions as part of your daily conversation — what you see other people doing and what your own child is experiencing:
- "I see how disappointed you are."
- "Sage hurt her knee, ouch! Let's give her a hug to help her feel better."
- "I wonder what the baby is feeling when he looks like that?"
- "That little boy in the shopping cart is crying; I wonder what is going on?"
- "I'm feeling frustrated . . . I can't get this to work right. I'm going to take three deep breaths to calm myself down."