Perspective taking is the ability to understand another person’s thoughts, feelings, wants and needs. It helps us to step into another person’s shoes, feel what they are feeling and understand point of view. Mastering the skill of perspective taking is the key to developing empathy and it’s a skill that children will need to have to be successful in every part of their life.

When children can understand another person’s perspective, they are more likely to be empathetic, handle conflicts peacefully, be less judgmental, value differences, speak up for those who are victims and act in ways that are more helpful, comforting and supportive of others. They have healthier peer relationships.

Teaching our kids perspective taking can be taught to kids as soon as preschool and then reinforced throughout middle school and high school. It significantly reduces unconscious biases and helps reduce racism and bullying.

Teaching perspective taking is hard.

The best way to teach kids to take another perspective is to find ways for them to step out of their own shoes and experience the “other” side. The trick is to find moments when we can help children to see how their actions affect others.

The hard part of the process is when we, as parents, have to model empathy while setting limits and disciplining them. Discipline is a deeply personal issue, but research has clearly shown that discipline methods like yelling, spanking, shaming and even rewarding endanger empathy.

There is a discipline method known as “induction” that involves parents consistently reacting to misbehavior by highlighting the impact of the distress of the one who was harmed and helping their child to understand the impact of their actions.

Here are the 4 steps to inductive discipline method. The acronym CARE will help you remember the 4 steps.

Step 1Call Attention to Uncaring: Name what action your child took that was uncaring and describe why it was uncaring. Explain the reason why you disapprove.

Step 2Assess How Uncaring Affects Others: Guide your child to help them imagine what it would feel like to be the person who is harmed. Ask your child how they would feel if they were that person.

Step 3Repair the Hurt and Require Reparations: Once a child understands how their actions have affected another person, repairing the hurt is an important part of the process. Reparations must be heartfelt and age appropriate for the offender.

Step 4Express Disappointment and Stress Caring Expectations: The final step is explaining to your child how you feel about uncaring actions and expressing your disappointment in their behavior. It’s a potent way to let your child know that you believe that they can do better. Showing your disappointment enables children to develop standards for judging their actions, feelings of empathy for others and a sense of moral identity.

Next time, we’ll be talking about practical ways to develop the skill of perspective taking in your child.

If you would like to find out about more ways to bullyproof your kids, check out our latest e-book called “Bullyproof”.  It’s full of ideas on how you can take small steps to empower your child to stand up to bullies, to keep the lines of communication open and to help your child to become more empathetic and compassionate.

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