5 ways to foster empathy to kids

By Bhawna Arora*

Empathy is an important life skill. While many think it is only a trait, but it is something that can be learnt and taught, as emphasized by Shweta Verma (2021) and Gwen Dewar (2020). Positive Parenting is an important aspect to cultivate empathy. “Positive parenting emphasizes warm, positive family interactions, and guides children by rewarding and reinforcing their better impulses”, says Gwen Dewar (2018).

Here are 5 ways to practice positive parenting to develop empathy in Kids

1. Pause and focus on reasons

Understand the reasons behind behaviors of children and think of responses accordingly (Shweta Verma, 2021). Dig deeper into what might be happening in a particular moment or situation that is making the child angry or cranky. Don’t jump to react. Take a pause and reflect.

2. Help children refocus

Helping children refocus on something else in case of potentially harmful actions (Gwen Dewar, 2018).  . Ordering them to stop isn’t very helpful. For example, if a child wants to play with your work device (laptop), you can say something like: “Oh! This is for office work and you can start using it when you begin working in an office. But, I can play office-office with you right now if you want. You become my office friend and let’s see how talk in a meeting!”

3. Say ‘Yes’ too!

Learn to say ‘Yes’ instead of ‘No’ every time (Gwen Dewar, 2018). Negotiate instead of saying “No” to a child. Frequent ‘No’ can lead to resentment and resistance.

4. Teach kids to regulate their emotions

While parents or adults around children need to be role models, children also need coaching to regulate their emotions. Gwen Dewar (2020) gives suggestions to do so and also emphasizes that change in behavior should not be brought by shaming children. To show an empathic response, children need to manage their thoughts and feelings about themselves too, especially when their mistakes might have hurt someone. Hence, helping children see the impacts of their actions on others is important but not by evoking shame or labeling them as ‘bad’ guys. 

5. Give children ‘do-overs’

Jill Suttie (2016) lists the importance of helping children correct their behaviors by giving them a second chance.After you call-out their behavior, help children see how the other must be thinking and feeling. Then help children see what they can do to make amends. Once this is done, help them see what they can do differently the next time.

Cultivating empathic ways and behaviors among children is significantly dependent on parents and caregivers perspectives and actions. You can learn it too. Ginny’s Planet offers courses to people of all ages to learn and practice empathy in daily life. Join empathy workshop and explore more in Ginny’s Planet resources HERE.

About Ginny’s Planet:

Ginny’s Planet is a social enterprise Co-founded by Dr. Shweta Verma in 2019. The brand runs on the core value of helping our teachers and parents to teach their children to become independent, smart and better leaders by equipping them with a deep understanding of empathy, diversity, disability and inclusion. Dr. Shweta and the team design events, workshops and products to help guardians & schools to develop kids’ mindset and evolve as adaptive and flexible human beings. They work with schools to organise workshops for children and teachers.

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References in the article

  • Shweta Verma (2021). Empathy is both: A Trait & A Skill
  • Gwen Dewar (2020). Teaching empathy: Evidence-based tips for fostering empathic awareness in children.parentingscience.com
  • Gwen Dewar (218). Positive parenting tips: Getting better results with humor, empathy, and diplomacy. parentingscience.com


*Bhawna Arora is a Mom-Intern on Ginny’s Planet. She is a CA by training and profession. Currently, she is working towards building capacities to join the Training domain.