Tragedy underscores need to teach empathy

  • Article by: LUKE MILLER
  • Updated: December 17, 2012 - 8:42 PM

For 30 years, we've taught children to care foremost about themselves. That was a mistake.

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ninetyninerDec. 18, 1212:03 PM

I whole-heartedly agree! Thank you for bringing this up. There is an overwhelming attitude in our society today that says you need to only look out for yourself. Not sure where this came about although I have some ideas about that, but I definitely noticed a sea change in the 80's regarding this attitude. It used to be that people knew their neighbors and cared or at least paid attention to them. Nowadays people live in such a vaccuum of their own making that they don't know and don't care about the people around them. People wonder why our society seems to unravel at times...a big reason is probably because we don't think of ourselves as a society.

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elmore1Dec. 18, 1212:54 PM

Excellent article and perspective on a complicated subject!

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zionistgalDec. 18, 1212:55 PM

More wisdom in this one article than I have read in days. YES. You nailed it. Some kids survive this marination in the cult of self esteem- they have competing moral messages from parents or religion and eventually figure out that the world does not revolve around them. Others do not have anything to offset this "ME" mindset, and for a few, when things don't go well, it is a short leap to "victimhood". Nothing good ever comes from seeing yourself as a victim. Horrible things have been done by those who felt that their victimhood justified their actions.

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jgmanciniDec. 18, 1212:59 PM

Good thoughts. I completely agree. Although, I would say the problem is more than 30 years in the making, or perhaps it's cyclical. Just look at the Baby Boomers. They are the classic "Me" Generation. Just listen to the Republican Party, which is overwhelmingly made up of Boomers. "Me, Me, Me, what's in it for me?" "Why should I care about other peoples's problems?" "It's not my job to worry about 47% of the country." It's not just people under 30 that are only there for themselves.

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GalinhanDec. 18, 12 1:24 PM

This is a great article. Being a 'baby boomer', I don't like being lumped into the mentioned "Me" Generation. I believe that took off after. When we started changing the way our schools handled children and the thought that children should't be exposed to teams that win and one loses, that maybe they don't get picked until last or that maybe they don't even make the team. We can't damage a child's self-esteem. Well, by implementing the practices we now use, we have damaged their esteem in ways I'm sure were not expected. We're at the other end of the spectrum. If we have parents that parent and allow teachers to teach, the children will be better off.

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crystalbayDec. 18, 12 1:38 PM

I've also been in the mental health field (30 years), but take exception to the overly-simplistic conclusions of this author. "Self-love" is not the same thing as hubris, narcissism, and lack of empathy, yet his writing infers this. The disservice we did to our kids in the so-called "self esteem movement" was deeper than its description in this article. What we were told was to praise everything we could enthusiastically when a child did something we liked. What this effectively does to kids is it takes away his/her own ability to function without external validation. The correct method is, when a child has done something well, ask him or her, "How do you feel about this?" This way, the child learns early how to claim his/her own accomplishments instead of the parent doing it for him! Empathy is innate if we don't interfere with its development. It's also modeled by parents - a child not experiencing genuine empathy from his parents will likely not "feel" it for others.

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merrytrareDec. 18, 12 1:54 PM

We have children who have been given everything, and then we have children who don't get enough to eat. The affluence that is such a part of many children's lives is not always good. They do feel entitled, and they are given the best of everything. This sounds great in theory, but is it helpful in the "real world?" I wonder if that is always a good thing. In my generation (The Baby Boomers) and the part of Minnesota where I grew up, most of us came from larger families and money was tight. In my family, good grades were what mattered and we worked for those. I don't think that life was always good for children during those years either, but it was difficult to come out of those years with an entitlement mentality. Balance is necessary, but not always easy to find--especially when a family is on one side of the spectrum--either living quite comfortably or living in poverty.

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EleanoreDec. 18, 12 2:24 PM

I'm pretty sure that empathy will be on the list of democratic party banned items as it gets in the way of corporatism and keeping the party in power without a real challange from people who care more about each other than the party or a dollar.

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EleanoreDec. 18, 12 2:27 PM

great comments crystalbay. Again I'd mention substituting dollars for people and political parties for self determing responsibility are root causes that you can pinpoint a watershed change in society, 1980, and the presidents election that year.

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EleanoreDec. 18, 12 2:44 PM

"Others do not have anything to offset this "ME" mindset, and for a few, when things don't go well, it is a short leap to "victimhood"." - More than a few, there's a political party for that.

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