Maia Szalavitz, a reporter with TIME magazine recently wrote an article for the magazine titled “How to Deprogram Bullies: Teaching Kindness 101”. This excellent article discusses a program called ROOTS OF EMPATHY (ROE), which helps teach children at an early age how to be empathetic to others.
In the article, it is explained how this program can help with bullying issues:
After a child has hurt someone, “we always think we should start with ‘How do you think so-and-so felt?'” Gordon says. “But you will be more successful if you start with ‘You must have felt very upset.'” The trick, she says, is to “help children describe how they felt, so that the next time this happens, they’ve got language. Now they can say, ‘I’m feeling like I did when I bit Johnny.'”
When children are able to understand their own feelings, they are closer to being able to understand that Johnny was also hurt and upset by being bitten. Empathy is based on our ability to mirror others’ emotions, and ROE helps children recognize and describe what they’re seeing.
You can read the full article here at TIME online. I believe that any approach that can help teach and reinforce the importance of sharing empathy with others can ultimately help in the battle to stop bullying.
As an aside, I overheard a conversation the other day where two people were talking about empathy in a different way. They were talking about a movie where someone killed 15 people and 1 dog. Their conversation was about how people watching the movie were making a big deal about the killing of the dog, but no one was upset about the people. I thought this was an interesting point about empathy. I know if an animal is injured or killed in a movie I react. If a character who is human and I haven’t invested any emotional time with is killed, I don’t really react. Do we feel bad because the dog is viewed as friendly and nice and we don’t view ourselves on first impression that way?
I don’t really have an answer here, just an observation about the value and empathy we share with humans vs. animals, which we innately feel we must care for. Please enjoy the TIME article and feel free to comment about the empathy point.