Empathy is different than sympathy. Sympathy is when you feel bad for someone because you have felt the pain they are going through, and you have some level of pity for that person. Empathy is understanding how they may feel, even if you've never experienced the same thing. Empathy is a wonderful gift, and it can take a million different forms.
I have seen parents using empathy with their Kindergarten students. I have seen them take off their child's coat and hang it up. They empty the child's backpack for them and tie their shoes or help them take off their boots and change into their shoes. They don't want their child to need or lack for anything, so they do it all for them. I've seen parents physically carry their children as they're leaving school, because they love them and want good things for them.
I couldn't agree more. I also couldn't disagree more.
Don't get me wrong, I love those kids, and I want every good thing for them, too. But that's just the point. I want it FOR THEM! I want them to get to feel the pride and confidence that comes from knowing how to zip your own coat. I want them to be the kid the other kids ask for help because they DO know how to open their own snack. I want them to believe they are strong and capable, and a valued member of our classroom, because they ARE an important member of their class. I want them to know they are capable of amazing things. I want them to believe that the only reason they don't know how to do things is because they haven't mastered them yet, and not that those things are too hard, or they aren't smart (or strong) enough. I understand their struggle. I also understand the good that can come from it. I treasure the moment when a child figures out that they can string together the sounds that letters make, and it creates a WORD! It is the monumental occasion in which Daddy's baby girl or Mama's little man has become.............A READER!!!
Just like Mom and Dad, our kids become stronger because they have struggled. They have taken the time to practice and fail and make mistakes, and get better and better at things. When we do everything for kids we tell them that we don't believe they can do them. We may be telling them that we don't have time to teach them, or we can't wait while they try. Sometimes this is true. As a mother of 7, I can tell you that there are times when I just need to tie the dad-gum shoes for you, or you can work on it in the car on the way to church.
However, we might accidentally be telling them that they are not worth our time.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
I understand, and I hope they never feel that way.