Friday, September 20, 2019

Cultivating Empathy in My Children, From a Neuroscience Perspective


Image result for children helping children

Wanting to share another great article I've read recently, I dug into my archive and found this fascinating piece by Erin Clabough.

She explains that children need to be given the space to learn how to be empathetic, even when that means they will make choices along the way that we wish they hadn't. In order to really teach empathy, we have to allow our children to practice empathy in real time under real circumstances. They need to feel good (or not good) about the choices they've made. The neurology behind why this works is just an added bonus.

Clabough says, "To actively work on empathy, we must teach our children what to do with the feelings and thoughts that get dredged up by social conflict. To begin, we can provide a framework to process the social content — parents can name the emotions and help explain other perspectives.

And parents, then we back off. If we want compassionate acts to be deeply rewarding to our kids, then we have to allow them to pick a course of action on their own terms. And if it all goes wrong, we let them feel what that choice feels like. Afterward, we can provide a framework to process it and help our kids generate lots of alternative solutions. We talk them through the present, but instead of focusing on what went wrong this time, we help them see a clear path to choose differently next time."

Friday, September 13, 2019

What's Lost When We Rush Kids Through Childhood

I come across so many truly good articles about early childhood education and child development that it seems a shame not to share them. This one was sent to me by a colleague. It's titled What's Lost When We Rush Kids Through Childhood and it's an interview with Erika Christakis, the author of The Importance of Being Little.

What really resonated with me was her answer to the question of what quality early childhood education looks like. Her answer: relationships. I wasn't surprised that this was her answer; I was just thrilled to see it in print.

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Read the article here. And know that this is what we at Agudas Achim Preschool strive for every day.

Christakis also makes excellent points about taking the time to see the world through a child's eyes, slowing down, and not "adultifying" childhood. I hope you enjoy it. 

Friday, September 6, 2019

Planting Fig Trees for Our Children

By the end of September, we'll be reading the final chapters of the book of Deuteronomy. Moses will remind the people of the covenant God has made with themGod has not only made this covenant with the "people standing here today," he'll explain, but also with "the people not here today." He'll be talking about future generations: us. And our children.

This notion that future generations are beholden to the promises of their ancestors might not fit with our modern sensibilities, but to me it's a profound reminder that what we do now -- or don't do now -- will matter in some way, somehow in the future. Our actions (and inactions) do have consequences, some of which are immediate, and some of which we'll never even live to see.

For parents, this might feel especially overwhelming and exhausting. It's just so much responsibility, which can be terrifying. At some level, it might even feel like a burden. But we do have another option. 

Image result for parent and child planting treeWe can remind ourselves of another Jewish value, tikkun olam, which means repair the world. We can believe it is our duty to work with God to finish the work of God's creation, meaning that it's incumbent upon us to do our part -- small or large -- to make the world a little better than we left it. We can remember that we're not doing it just for us; we're really doing it for our children and their children.

There is a story about an old man who is planting a fig tree by the side of the road. A stranger walks by and laughs at him: “Why are you bothering to plant that tree? You’ll never live long enough to eat its fruits!” The old man replies, “My ancestors planted fig trees for me. And now I am planting this fig tree for my children and grandchildren."

What constitutes a fig tree in our modern world? Slowing the effects of climate change? Finding the cure for currently incurable diseases? Of course. But how about getting to know your neighbors and smiling at strangers. Tipping the barista. Holding the door open for the man behind you. Making eye contact with the woman standing on the corner holding a cardboard sign and saying, "Good morning." When your children see you going out of your way to behave in kind and considerate ways, they learn how to respect and value others and their life experiences. They internalize these lessons, which they then model for their children. And, thankfully, hopefully, the cycle continues.

As this new school year begins, and as your children continue to grow, take time to acknowledge, and feel joy in, all the fig trees you're planting for them. It's easier than you think.

It's All About Relationships

Yesterday I attended a workshop entitled The Research Has Changed but the Children Haven't: Developing a Better Understanding of the...