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Empathy: The Key to Positive Relationships

Empathy: The Key to Positive Relationships

Developing empathy is a process that starts at infancy and continues throughout our life. Taking on another’s perspective can be difficult at times even for an adult, but nearly impossible for a toddler. Empathy needs to be modeled by the caring and trusted adults in a child’s life. Observing a parent showing genuine interest and concern to another family- member, enables the child to experience empathy by noting their parent’s behavior. The toddler may begin to imitate the gestures ( patting the back), or the caring looks( concern), that he observed the parent to use when comforting the family member, but not understand why. Your child is not yet empathetic, but is beginning to be sensitive to the emotions of others. That is a first step. Remember children with delay or disability might take longer, and need more models when learning about emotions and empathy.

There are many ways we, as parents and caregivers, can encourage empathetic feelings. Here are just a few:

  • Model what you want your child to observe and learn.

When your child is crying; be attentive and show genuine concern. If you dismiss his feelings, he will learn to dismiss the feelings of others. When you say for instance, “Stop crying, you’re fine”, you are missing the opportunity to build the capacity for empathy. Remember, showing caring does not mean changing your limit; it just means realizing that your child is truly upset and that you understand. If you demonstrate understanding for your child’s emotion, it will help him process the situation.

  • Reflect Feelings:

Listen, hear the feelings, and then say what you heard. Mirror back what the child is feeling with words: “You feel scared when the dog barks”, “you are frustrated with that puzzle.” “You get so excited when we go to the park!” Put words to the feelings a child has. Look at books and magazines and guess the person’s feelings. Make sure you relate your feelings to your child as well. Once they realize you have these feelings as well, it will help them be more comfortable with their own.

  • Look for situations that lend themselves to pro social interactions and observing other’s perspectives.

When your child grabs a toy from another child, and that child cries, it is a great opportunity to narrate what happened and why the child is crying. Telling your child that “Joey is sad because he wanted to play with that ball and you took it from him.”

  • Limit Screen Time

Face to face interaction is essential in understanding emotions and processing another’s point of view. Experiences are what allow us to take on someone else’s perspective. If our children are only interacting with a screen and limit actual face time, it will stunt their ability to “read cues” and identify emotions.

American Academy of Pediatrics Guidelines state:

  • For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they're seeing.
  • For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.”

Positive Relationships begin with mutual trust and respect. Genuine, caring responses to your child’s frustrating and challenging moments go along way to building this relationship.

“Developing empathy takes time. Your child probably won’t be a perfectly empathetic being by age three. Remember, empathy is a complex skill and will continue to develop across your child’s life.” Zero to Three.( Feb.1st 2016).

Toileting: What's the Fuss?

Toileting: What's the Fuss?
By Kathie Sarles, posted on March 5, 2015

This is a REPOST but worth a read....
There are many good parenting articles, blogs and DVDs that address this very natural and routine milestone,( look for these in our resource center). There are also many sage and “helpful” relatives and friends that offer advice on this issue. When it comes right down to it there are only 2 people who matter in this specific skill development: the child and the caregiver (s). It is up to you and your child to decide when you are ready and what method to use.
Below are the things to think about and the steps that might be helpful on this short, but intense journey.
Is your child ready? His chronological age is not a factor in this specific checklist. If he/ she is between 2 and 3 it is a good time to look for the signs.

  • Is your child dry for period of two or more hours at a time? ( if he isn’t, then you should wait his bladder might not be mature enough)

  • Is your child letting you know she is wet or dirty? ( may not want to change diaper but is aware of what is happening , and may use some word or sign)

  • Is your child aware of the feeling he has to go (may squirm or jump up and down, or go behind the couch or somewhere to have a bowel movement).

  • Does your child show interest in YOUR toileting habits ( may watch you urinate or point or ask questions)

  • Does she/ he use words or signs to indicate the need to go or that he/ she went.

  • Finally can he/she pull down pants ( if motor is impaired it may be harder and you might want to wait).

Next, are YOU ready? You are a big part of the success of this milestone.

  • Do you have the time to dedicate (if you have a busy work schedule or relatives coming it may need to wait a week to start).

  • Do you have supplies? You will need mops and cleaners as accidents will happen. Your child needs to pick out the big boy or girl undies ( or pull ups), and the special books and simple toys designated for potty time.

  • Decide on a potty… is it the big one or little one ( you know your child best)

  • Do you have a plan in mind, and are you willing to be consistent and stick to it?

  • Is everyone in house and at child care on board with you?


  1. Start by talking to your child about what is about to happen for about a week ahead of time. This gives both of you time to process.

  2. Go out to the store with your child and buy his favorite kind of undies or if you decide, pull-ups.

  3. Decide if you are going to use motivators like toys, stickers or food to entice him to use the potty consistently ( if you do, talk about how this will work to your child and buy whatever at the same time as the undies)

  4. Put the diapers out of sight ( you will still need them at night for a short while)

  5. If you can start on a Friday and have that day off great; if not start on a day off like a Saturday and dress your child with minimal clothes for easy access.

  6. Encourage play near the potty or take it with you. Remind child often to go try especally after 6 ounces of fluid…. When they succeed be excited and have them flush!

  7. If there is an accident, Say, “Oh No your forgot to go to the potty, why don’t you take off those wet pants and we will get new ones on?”. (Child may have trouble doing this but as much as possible have him/her do it. It will help them understand that it is better to go in the potty).

  8. Be very matter of fact about accidents, but remind them that there is a feeling when they need to go and that feeling is important. Have children help with clean up and changes of clothes.

  9. Bowel movements are usually harder to catch, but if you know the time when your child typically has a BM be very aware and try to get them into potty to sit for a little while. (Don’t physically make him sit; he will end up afraid.) Or take the BM to the toilet and dump in. This helps with connecting the action with the toilet.

  10. Have patience and be consistent with praise. Don’t put a diaper back on during the day (night time is different at first).

  11. If after 7-10 days your child is not having much successl, tell him that you can try again another time. Let it go. Try in a month or so once again. Most children will not need to try again; it becomes natural and they feel proud!

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