Empathetic Children Can Recognize Feelings: Teaching Emotional Literacy
Written by Rhonda Lemieux
I found it quite enlightening that this book began as a conversation among students. The conversation wasn’t around weekend events or breakfast, which is what I would have assumed from a group of eight and nine-year-old children. Instead, this conversation was about a unique visitor. This was not just another administrator coming in to visit the classroom as so often seems to occur with data-driven schools, but it was an infant. A baby! Who brings a baby to a school filled with children? Doesn’t this new mom know that sickness runs rampant in elementary schools? My intrigue was just becoming fueled.
This new baby was part of the Roots of Empathy program. Through the children’s face-to-face interactions with the infant, the children began building empathy. He would laugh, look, and play, allowing the children to experience uncontrolled and authentic feelings. All he had to do was lay there and be a baby. With clenched fists, students began yelling out what they suspected this baby was feeling. Suddenly these young children deemed it necessary to smile at the baby and analyze how they thought it would make the baby feel. This Roots of Empathy was cherishing human existence and human feelings.
Emotional intelligence and emotional literacy are the two topics that come into play in the scenario above. According to Borba (2017), emotional intelligence is “the ability to identify an emotion in yourself or others” (p. 7). I believe that the boy who pointed out the baby’s clenched fists, may have identified an emotion within the new baby. However, he went a step further and decided that the group needed to smile at the baby to show it was okay. This is emotional literacy. Emotional literacy is where, “you read someone else’s, or your own, emotions...it is what motivate[s] a child to care, and it all starts by tuning in to feelings” (p. 7).
Emotional literacy is the gap that seemingly is growing wider and wider due to the idea of using a “‘smart’ mobile device,” which is affecting parenting and socialization as well as the response to genders. Borba discussed the idea about how not only technology, but the stereotyping of gender needs and expectations seems to be a counter-intuitive focus. Finally, along the same lines is the idea that people in the United States seems to be too busy to stop and socialize, speak to someone face-to-face, or redirect attitudes based on the child and not the gender.
Finally, a list of ideas were generated in order to assist those children in comprehending and experiencing empathy. Be an emotional coach by:
Opportunities to reflect and challenge yourself:
Share your thoughts and reflections of the previous questions.
Next blog posted Feb. 13th over chapter 2.