A Perfect Guide How Dads Can Teach Kids Empathy

Can my son learn to behave socially? A father asks. The boy (11) has a classmate who lives with her grandmother. An older woman who can handle the care but does little to provide school support?

If there is a need to learn at home for a test, the girl usually gets a bad fail. If the children have to bring something for a project, they often have it not with them. 

The son gets along fine with her; she comes to play from time to time. “I would like it if he helps her learn,” father writes. “When they meet up, I try to get my son to do something for school first and then start playing.” So the question is:

How can the dads teach empathy to their kids?

  • Start by teaching the toddlers.
  • Making them do things with the seniors
  • Peer coaching in the primary schools
  • Make the children help each other
  • Starting a conversation face to face
  • Talk About Feelings and Emotions
  • Make them learn emotions such as learning to count
  • Name other people’s emotions
  • Set a good example yourself
  • Pay attention to your own child’s emotions
  • Praise caring and kindness
  • Get to know different cultures
  • Admit your own mistakes
  • Make it a topic of conversation while eating
  • Establish family values ​as a family
  • Remember, a toddler is already more concerned with other children
  • A Toddler Understands Differences
  • Start social development of school children: helping and comforting
  • Initiate teenagers are social behavior
  • Bestow education in Social Development
  • Know that authoritarian education is also important 
  • Initiate permissive upbringing

Here is how you can teach empathy

Start by teaching the toddlers

Pedagogue Jolien van der Graaff conducts empathy research at Utrecht University. According to her, the toddlers are certainly not too young. Empathy involves different processes, she explains. Empathizing with another and understanding the perspective of the other. The first, more emotional side, in particular, develops early on. “Even toddlers can feel sad when someone gets hurt. And show compassion.”

The second, the more cognitive side, has a longer development path. In toddlerhood and kindergarten, children can already do role-playing games. After that, understanding someone else’s perspective becomes more sophisticated. For example, children learn to look beyond the immediate situation between the ages of ten and fifteen.

They see that living conditions influence feelings and thoughts. If this son understands that the girl is on her own when it comes to schoolwork, he can be empathetic, which can motivate him to help her. According to her, the son’s reaction is not necessarily antisocial, as the father classifies it. Maybe the boy thinks that the girl would rather play when she’s with him.

Making them do things with the seniors

Children must want it themselves, and they must be able to handle the responsibility. But his experience is that peer coaching, as it is called when one student helps another student works for almost everyone.

Peer2Peer system can be an organization that supports schools in linking students. MBO students accompany refugee children as buddies or senior students who introduce first-graders to their new school or a senior student who explains a subject to a junior student.

Peer coaching in the primary schools

In some primary schools, it is ingrained for pupils to help each other with reading and arithmetic. Peer coaching has been tried and tested in Australia and the United States. Peer coaching makes schools socially safer.

There is less bullying. The children themselves also benefit from it. You are more likely to ask something of a peer. And you are more likely to admit it if you don’t quite understand the explanation yet.

Make the children help each other

Helping someone else is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. You get more self-confidence and become socially more robust. Children who help each other with schoolwork, according to experts, acquire all kinds of skills such as working together, discussing a solution, giving feedback in a friendly way.

Explaining teaching material requires some didactic skills, but experts foresee no problems at primary school. The material is still essential. You will often hear that children finally understand what to do because a peer uses the exact words.

Even though experts mainly support secondary and MBO schools, she thinks it is just as important that parents demonstrate social behavior. Children have to learn at a young age that they can mean something to others.

This father can show that by helping friends and family if necessary. Father has influence. Children who have a good relationship with their parents, who pleasantly treat each other at home, more often display social behavior.”

Starting a conversation face to face

Of course, every parent hopes to raise a child caring for others and empathize with conversation partners. You often asked parents, psychologists, and other experts how to boost your child’s empathy. So the tips come from experts.

In these times of screens, smartphones, and WhatsApp, it is essential to teach your child to talk face to face. With emojis, children do not learn to really express emotions.

Talk About Feelings and Emotions

Naming feelings and emotions is very important in children’s education, for they must first understand their own emotional world before they can identify with other people’s feelings and gain empathy for them.

Make them learn emotions such as learning to count

A pediatrician and neurosurgeon say learning how to deal with emotions is just as important as learning to count. As an example, while walking through the woods, ask your child how they judge the emotions of passers-by. “Do you see that woman; does she look happy or sad?”

You can also ask your child about the emotional perspectives of others. You do that by asking things like “How do you think Thomas feels about taking his toys?” or ‘You make mama sad when you hit her.’

Name other people’s emotions

Point out to your children if others engage in hurtful or mean behavior and when someone else is empathetic or friendly. Explain to your children how these people are likely to feel and how they might have acted differently to be kinder.

For example, if the woman behind the till is unkind to a customer. Once outside, it is best to explain to your children that she must be busy and therefore react this way, but she could have done it differently.

The experts also give a tip to let your children watch movies and read books such as ‘Harry Potter’ or ‘To Kill a Mockingbird. Themes such as kindness and empathy are featured here and stimulate empathy.

Set a good example yourself

As always, it is good to lead by example as a father. Pay attention to other people’s feelings in front of your children. You can also say in the presence of your children that you have a day full of frustration or are disappointed about something.

Pay attention to your own child’s emotions.

Father should also pay attention to the child’s own emotions. For children to show empathy to others, they must also be empathetic to the child. Of course, that’s hard to do between getting your kids dressed and having your kids eat breakfast before they go to school, but sometimes make time to say, ‘Hey, I understand it’s a shame that the television has to be turned off, but we have to go to school, and it is vital that you are on time.

You do not always have to give children their way in the upbringing, but mention that you see how they feel about it.

Praise caring and kindness

Parents are used to praising children when they pass a test, but you can also praise them for being caring towards others. Compliment your son or daughter if your child came to the rescue of a classmate.

For example, say, “Oh, you were so sweet that you went to the rescue of that little boy. Did you see how happy that made him? ‘

Get to know other cultures

Introduce your kids to diversity, a parenting expert advises. You do this by having them read, watch specific television programs, eat in restaurants with foreign cuisine, go to museums, or do voluntary work in the area.

In this way, you bring children into contact with other religions or origins in their upbringing. You also do this by discussing differences that you see in your own environment or family, school, or neighborhood.

Admit your own mistakes

Admit your own mistakes. If you snub someone in front of your children, it is best to explain later that you should have done this differently. It makes an impression when you discuss when you could have been a bit more empathetic yourself.

Make it a topic of conversation while eating

It’s an excellent idea to discuss kindness during dinner. Ask each family member to share two things they did that day that involved compassion towards another. Board games with the family are also an excellent way to practice this.

Establish family values ​as a family

This tip requires some dedication and means that families determine several values ​​that they consider necessary. It is recommended to discuss how you have pursued those values ​​every week.

This way, you also keep consciously engaged in the education of your children. Did you use nice words this week? How do we avoid saying ugly things when we are angry at someone else?

Remember, a toddler is already more concerned with other children

A one-year-old toddler will be concerned when he sees images of other crying children. From this age on, he will also be more and more concerned about others. Half of all 13-15-month-olds tries to comfort another when they are upset. He will try to touch or hug that person because he wants the other person to feel better.

For example, between the ages of 18 and 20 months, the toddler will actively undertake something to comfort the other. He shares his things with a sad person or brings bandages or blankets to someone who is sick.

Toddlers aged 23-25 ​​months will express concern, in addition to actively helping. They can then come up with proposals that they hope that the other person will feel better. However, this still comes entirely from their own experience. For example, barely two girls give her favorite doll to her sad mother because she likes to cuddle with the doll herself and assumes that her mother will also feel better when she cuddles with the doll.

A Toddler Understands Differences

Children as young as three to four years old are beginning to realize that not everyone reacts the way they do.

What he likes himself, someone else does not have to like! He understands now. The child tries to determine why the other reacts in this way and how he can best help the other.

Start social development of school children: helping and comforting

As a child gets older, he sees more and more examples of people being comforted and supported by others. He can reason better and better so that he can empathize with others. In this way, he becomes more and more skilled in his helpfulness.

Initiate teenagers in social behavior

Most teenagers live in their own world. They are concerned with their image and their popularity. Usually, they belong to a group and are hostile to outsiders. As many as two-thirds of all teenagers are selfish and are not likely to lift a finger to help someone else. Only one-third is concerned about the fate of others.

Bestow education in Social Development

Parents play a crucial role in their child’s social development. Of course, the type of upbringing a child enjoys is of great importance here. How exactly do certain types of education influence the social behavior of children?

Know that authoritarian education is also important 

In this type of upbringing, little attention is paid to the child, the parent is the boss, and the child has to do precisely as he is told without being listened to.

In this way, the child does not get the chance to think for himself, which causes him to doubt himself. He will show little or no initiative: he will withdraw when he is around other children.

Initiate permissive upbringing

Permissive parents, while cherishing their children, fail to discipline and reward them. This parenting type is also called the pampering type.

Children get everything thrown into their lap and no longer learn the principle “let’s go for what.” These children will behave selfishly and will not be concerned with the needs of others.

Things to Know

Empathy can be used for multiple purposes. Preferably, of course, to help someone else correctly, but it also comes in handy for predicting the reaction of someone to whom you have a message that they will not like. To soften the blow, make up an excuse that you know will be accepted by the other person.

For example, Mum asks her eight-year-old son to go and play with his three-year-old sister. The son does not feel like it and indicates that he still has to do homework. Mom really won’t say to him, “Leave that homework.” Incidentally, empathy is also misused for antisocial behavior. If you want to bully someone effectively, knowing their weaknesses so you can predict which action will hurt them the most.


Crucial in the social development of a child is the example he is given. Children pay more attention to what an adult does than what he says and will imitate what they see. In addition, examples of warmth and love make more impressions than cold examples. Children have a great need to identify with people with whom they have strong emotional ties, usually the parents.

Studies have shown the importance of combining a solid bond and a good example. Pre-school boys who have sweet, warm dads show more generosity and compassion than peers who have less dear dads, and a child of about ten is just as selfless and considerate, or selfish and inconsiderate, as his same-sex parent.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can you do as a parent to stimulate your child’s social behavior?

You can let your child know that he is doing well when he is nice to others, and when he helps others, set a good example and be kind to others and your child. If you don’t do it yourself, your child will imitate your behavior.

When your child gets older, role models other than the parents become essential. All too often, children fall prey to peer pressure (sometimes hostile). 

What is empathy?

Our ability to understand how others are feeling also helps us understand our differences. From this moment, we can understand the other, help him, adapt to him, etc. Every child is endowed with empathy.

Here is an excellent example of natural empathy in children. Children can perceive from an early age the suffering of another child or an injured animal. 

How to teach your child empathy: some avenues to follow?

It is quite possible to teach your child to understand the emotions of those around him. This is because it has been scientifically proven that little ones are also aware of what triggers their emotions, but they do not precisely understand this sensation.

Our role as parents is to give them good examples. No miracle recipe, but several options are to be explored to cultivate empathy in your child.

What must you remember?

Reading at night, watching cartoons about empathy, playing games are good ways for children to understand that gestures like words affect each other, both good and bad.

Empathy is worked and developed with age by observing and imitating the gestures of adults. Please encourage your child to act considerately towards others; this will help him build his empathy.

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