Bob Sornson was a classroom teacher and school administrator for
over 30 years, and is the founder of the
works with schools and education organizations across the country,
focusing primarily on developing comprehensive programs which support
early learning success, building classroom and school culture to support
the development of social and behavior skills, and offering parent
is the author of a number of books including:
Stand in My Shoes: Kids Learning About Empathy.
"When Emily asks her big sister what the word empathy means, Emily has
no idea that knowing the answer will change how she looks at people...
Empathy is the ability to notice what other people feel. Empathy leads
to the social skills and personal relationships which make our lives
rich and beautiful, and it is something we can help our children learn.
This book teaches young children the value of noticing how other people
feel. Were hoping that many parents read it along with their children."
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Developing Empathy in the Home
Bob Sornson, Early Learning Foundation
1. Start with safety and security. Fear interferes with the development
of empathy. Learning to set clear limits in the home with respect and
love is essential to the development of empathy.
consistent family routines. Find the routines which work for your
family, hopefully including:
study time routine
meals together as a family
chores for the
3. Talk to your
kids. Tell your stories so they learn to see the world from the
perspective of others. Help them learn to notice the lives of others.
4. Self-regulation skills are essential for the development of empathy.
By learning to calm themselves, regulate emotions, delay gratification,
persevere, and stay focused on the right things, students develop the
skills which allow them to look beyond themselves. Donít take
self-regulation skills for granted. By modeling self-regulation,
following your home routines, letting your kids practice waiting (delay
gratification), sharing toys, not always getting their way, and doing
chores, they learn to adapt their emotions and their physical bodies to
the situation. That is self-regulation!
5. Model empathy. Notice the lives of others and act. Or talk about your
experience of using empathy, and about the times you forgot to act with
6. Read great childrenís literature with your kids. Great books draw
children into the lives of the characters, and help them learn to see
the world differently.
7. Notice the feelings of your kids. Talk about them. Help them learn to
use words to describe their inner experiences.
8. Help your children learn to build play skills and relationships. When
you love someone, you give energy and attention to noticing their
well-being. Loving relationships grow empathy.
Developing Empathy in the Classroom
Bob Sornson, Early Learning Foundation
1. Start by building a classroom culture in which
students feel safe and secure. Students who are afraid of physical or
emotional harm give attention to their own well-being, and have less
ability to notice the well-being of others.
2. Classroom procedures and routines build a sense of
predictable security for children. Well established routines also help
students practice self-regulation skills as they learn how to wait
calmly, recognize the behaviors that lead to positive outcomes in the
classroom, and follow the steps to success.
3. Help students develop listening and observation
skills by planning morning meetings, having discussions about what is
going well and what needs to improve in our classroom, and teaching
specific observation skills and listening which some children have not
learned in the home.
4. Self-regulation skills are the foundation for
empathy. By learning to calm themselves, regulate emotions, delay
gratification, persevere, and stay focused on the right things, students
develop the skills which allow them to look beyond themselves. Donít
take self-regulation skills for granted. Find ways to purposefully help
children develop these skills within the classroom.
5. Consider developing a clear set of expectations for
how adults will treat students and how students will treat each other
within the classroom. Making a commitment to treating each other with
respect, and then learning to stand up and speak up for yourself and for
others helps build a powerful sense of community (The Juice Box Bully,
Bob Sornson, 2011).
6. Use great literature and tell great stories to
inspire students to understand the experience of others.
7. Model empathy. Your students are watching!
8. Relationships matter. Empathy is the ability to
understand how someone feels, but caring about others precedes giving
effort to noticing the experience and feelings of others. Help kids
build relationships which inspire them to trust and care for others.