Teaching Empathy to Older Kids: Video Tips from a Japanese Classroom

Empathy. Happiness. We know we want to teach these essential life skills to our kids. But how? This series of short videos showcases the attitude one Japanese schoolteacher uses to teach his students how to be caring, happy kids. This first segment introduces Mr. Kanemori -- a kind, tough, funny teacher whose goal is to teach kids how to live a happy life -- and how to care for other people. But he doesn't sugar-coat life, and the challenges even children confront:

In the second segment, the kids learn key lessons about bullying and what it means to be a true friend. I was amazed at how long he stuck with the lesson. A good lesson for us in how long it takes to convey these complex skills to the kiddos:

The third segment gives a great lesson on how to negotiate with kids. Mr. Kanemori doesn't hide his aggravation -- but he doesn't rigidly stick with his punishment when the kids explain it wasn't fair, either. This is especially hard in parenting, because you want the kids to know you are serious in setting limits, and don't want to let them think they can run over you. Yet sometimes, the kids have a point, and we can model what a reasonable negotiation looks like:

The fourth segment shows us how even children can be taught how to handle life's tragedies. We want to bubble-wrap them to protect them from the uncertainties of life. We can't -- but we can give them skills to be more resilient:

Finally, the school year comes to an end. Have the kids learned anything from Mr. Kanemori? You be the judge. (Get your kleenex ready.)

Empathy and happiness CAN be taught -- but it's not easy. It takes more time and dedication than most of us realize. Do you teach these lessons at home? And how can we even start doing this in school?


Dr. Heather The BabyShrink Mom of Four, Parenting Expert Sign up for my Newsletter and Follow Me: