Kindness and empathy are what is needed to counter a world full of unfriendliness and narcistic vibes. Bully behaviour can emerge from not caring about others and not being able to feel the emotions of others. But teaching children empathy only is not enough.
There are two types of empathy. Affective empathy is experiencing the emotions of another while cognitive empathy is taking the perspective or understanding the emotions of another. The difference is in either feeling it with others or just understanding what others feel. The more effective empathy is affective empathy- when you can actually experience what others feel.
Just knowing what others are feeling is not enough. You can still be a bully if you understand what others are feeling but you just don’t care. So experiencing what others feel AND actually caring about others is what stops a person from being a bully.
What this means is that to raise a non-bully then you can teach your children to care for others and connect what others are feeling to your children’s experience of that feeling.
When you and your children witness someone feeling sad, you can say “She’s feeling sad. Remember that time when you...and you’re all sad? I guess that’s how she must be feeling too.” In this way, you are connecting your children's experiences to what others are feeling.
What is the point of having empathy if you don't care for others? Kindness and caring for others is a Muslim trait. Jareer ibn Abdullah reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Verily, Allah Almighty rewards for gentleness what He does not give for rudeness. If Allah loves a servant, then He grants him the quality of gentleness. No household is deprived of kindness but that they have been truly deprived.” (al-Mu’jam al-Kabīr 2274). It needs to be nurtured in your children from the start at an early age.
Here are three researched ways that can help to stop bullying.
1. Read books about bullying and then role play. Preschoolers were read a book about bullying and had the usual book discussions. After this they did role plays and had children act out parts. This study found children to consider different perspectives, made connection to their own experiences and expressed sympathy.
2. Cooperative Learning. Middle schoolers were put into cooperative learning groups. Researchers found that cooperative learning enhanced affective empathy.
3. Condemning and Empathy Messages. Seventh graders were asked to pretend they were bullies and a teacher either told them condemning messages or empathy awareness messages or both. Students who had both messages given to them were more likely to stop bullying.
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