Empathy, dialogue, and individuality: essential principles of our growing up process

For as long as I remember, I’ve always believed in education. My dream was to become a kindergarten teacher, to put my beliefs into action by helping children develop their personalities, cultivate curiosity for all the learning possibilities that we have in the world, and supporting them on their challenges and discoveries.

A lot of this came from my mom, who has always encouraged me and my sister to see the plentifulness of our world and to feel hungry for experience and everything it has to offer us. But, well, life changes, and I decided not to become a teacher. However, the will to share my life perspective with others remains the same, and with much happiness, I realized I could accomplish it writing to Voices.

Recently, I read a book that made me think a lot about education and how guardians can help youngsters to become responsible, empathetic, and respectful adults. The book was You Learn By Living, by Eleanor Roosevelt – yes, she, the “First Lady of the World”, head of the commission who wrote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I deeply believe this is a book that we should all read at some point in our life, especially in youth, to have more clarity and maturity in guiding our lives. In addition to it, we young people can reflect on how to raise potential future kids, give some tips to acquaintances who presently have them and learn to behave nicely to all those present in our lives.

Firstly, Roosevelt wrote that if you want to forge human ties with people and make the most of your relationship with them you should value what they say and try to comprehend their point of view, which is essential. I’ve noticed children often feel neglected due to parents constantly diminishing what they feel and do try to be empathetic with them. You probably must have already felt sad when someone made fun of you at school and on telling what happened to your parents, they just told you to forget it, that it was not important, instead of taking some minutes to listen carefully and understand your feelings.

woman-sitting-while-leaning-on-glass-wall-1898558Another scene you must have already seen or lived: a family is at a party and their child starts crying after getting irritated by all the hullabaloo. Guardians tell them to shut up and stop the tantrum so as not to bother others. This behavior is very problematic, because sometimes what kids want to hear is “I know you are bothered and suffering, I understand you are frustrated, come here and stay with me, together we can feel less stressed and have fun”. This way, they feel valued, respected, and build trust, knowing there is someone they can reach for in hard times. I comprehend that sometimes it is easier said than done, and some situations are really hard to deal with. However, taking care of children with patience, dialogue and empathy truly help them to grow up reproducing this kind of conduct with others, creating healthy relationships and avoiding behaviors such as intolerance, anger, constant lack of patience with others’ feelings and not knowing how to handle their own emotions.

Secondly, Roosevelt tells us a lot about facing responsibilities. She wrote that young people are often asked to make decisions all of a sudden when for their whole life they have been made to obey very harsh rules. The lack of dialogue and empathy that I mentioned above usually are practiced by parents that do not discuss with their child what is happening in their life, their work, their family, and claim they ask nothing from children beyond studying and having good grades. In this case, youngsters feel left out when they are not given the chance to participate actively in their family life decisions and acknowledge what is happening in their house, preventing them from polishing their maturity and responsibility.

zach-vessels--7I5Z7zPXGY-unsplashA good example is changing the kids’ school and only telling them next year, without discussing the resolution together. Children already knew how the other school worked, were used to teachers and employees, had friends, and a routine. Therefore, with this abrupt change, without a previous conversation explaining reasons why they did that and how the new school will work, there is a huge possibility they are going to feel frustrated, disrespected and undervalued, lowering their self-esteem by leaving them feeling their word is silenced and cultivating resentment. Moreover, they only learn how to obey, not to face responsibilities and make decisions, which is really harmful when the world expects this from them soon afterward. Such an example is deciding a major in college: after years of lowering our heads to everything, all at once, we have to make a life-changing decision without any experience. You also may feel or have felt lost and confused at this time and would appreciate a lot if you had more experience in this so as not to feel so unprepared.

Thirdly, last but not least, Roosevelt presents the importance of becoming an individual with your own values and beliefs. It is crucial that from an early age we develop our personality and have self-knowledge, so we can become confident, emotionally smart people, and share ideas within our community to contribute to the world with our precious and unique way of being. I highly believe that if parents cultivate their relationship with children by being empathetic and respectful, treating them equally, considering their thoughts and feelings, sharing with them their life decisions and wanting them to take part and be aware of all of them, kids and teenagers will acquire self-confidence, will enrich their character, will learn how to think by themselves and how to share their understandings respectfully. Consequently, children will know who they are and will become a remarkable, admirable, and lovely adults, that surely is going to play an important role in the world.

Indeed, young people are the golden seeds with which to blossom a peaceful, pleasant, and worthwhile world. For this reason, I think we should take care of them with all attention, care, and love available, contemplating aside from others, the three aspects I mentioned in this article. We, as young people too, can look over it with diligence, always trying to become a better person and assisting others to be the best version of themselves.

Júlia dos Santos Acerbi

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