Abraham Lincoln famously stated, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." (He paraphrased Jesus' words in his acceptance speech for the Illinois senate.) In our contemporary world rife with contention, anger, fear and violence, never has the need to join hands and work together been more important. In our families, schools, communities and countries our ability to thrive and succeed requires communal effort, mutual respect and individual contribution.
Michele Borba, Ed.D has penned, UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, a gem of a book that asserts that when children operate with empathy, not only do they, our families and communities feel and function better for everyone, but also that holy grail of American philosophy--one's ability to achieve traditional personal SUCCESS-dramatically improves. More importantly, it helps them to succeed as human beings. She outlines why parents' best strategy for supporting their kids success is to teach them how to be empathetic.
Borba points out families encourage (expect) academic achievement. They must set equally impassioned and clear expectations for kids to live a life based on values and empathy. Without regular nurturing, practice and acknowledgement, the fragile bud of empathy and values-based behavior withers/ "Me first" "Not-My-Problem" mentality replaces it.
Emotional literacy, empathy, and, the development of an internalized moral compass don't just happen. Parents must teach, model, encourage, and reinforce empathy. We need to implant our family values with intention, clarity, and commitment.
( For example, The Swift* family is kind. The Swift* family helps. The Swift* family respects others, etc.,)
We parents must routinely express our expectation that our children will live according to those values. When our kids follow through, we need to notice, affirm and reinforce that commitment to living with in the family value frame.
As a culture we are quick to encourage and acknowledge academic and athletic excellence. We must elevate empathy to the same high regard.
Why should adoptive parents embrace her idea? Through the lens of Intentional parenting, we often focus on emotional literacy and on fostering an environment which attunes to emotional states and welcomes the honest expression of those feelings--the happy, the sad, the uncomfortable and, the "ugly." We understand human beings are "feeling" beings and that emotions influence our thoughts, beliefs and behavior. We get that.
Borba invites us to graduate to a higher appreciation of the need for emotional resonance, one that understands that by attuning with empathy to emotions --ours and those around us-- we activate the highest plane of our humanity. We see other points of view, hear other ideas, and communicate instead of talking at one another.
And. Everyone. Benefits.
When we recognize the impact of our choices and actions have on others and work to cooperate instead of stepping on others to boost ourselves, something wonderful happens: stress diminishes, bullying lessens, health improves and everyone not only has a better "shot" at success, more people achieve success and feel better about themselves and others in the process. She asserts that empathy is foundational to the development of a moral identity. Sound to good to be true?
Her well-researched book includes much documentation that supports her point of view and the improvements which increased empathy produced in schools, communities and families.
This book overflows with simple, effective and practical ideas for how to nurture empathy because it is a skill parents can teach. Anyone can learn to be empathetic. She shares many strategies for "developing, practicing, and living empathy." Many are brilliantly simple.
As adoptive families people often question the validity of our families or see them as slightly less connected. We know how it feels to have to defend our legitimacy. If instead, people cultivated a more empathetic POV, they would see that we love as deeply and are as connected and real as their own.
PLEASE read this book. Our world needs more Intentional, empathetic and attuned families.