Rafael Guerrero


"Talking to a child at their eye height conveys a feeling of trust and security."

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empathy is one of the concepts we need to teach our children. The word comes from the Greek "empathos", which means "suffering with another". Imagine you're walking down the street when you look up and see a tightrope walker who's walking across a cable that runs between two buildings. If you stop and think about your emotions for a moment you'll find you feel quite scared, but not because your own life is at risk. What you're experiencing is empathy, That is, suffering with the other, experiencing the emotion that the other has. A common way to express this is that, "Empathy is the ability to put yourself in another person's shoes." That's a good definition; however, I'd add that empathy is the ability to put yourself in another person's shoes whilst being aware that they're not your own shoes. It's like saying, I understand how you feel, but I'm not experiencing the situation myself. I understand your emotions, but I'm not in the same situation.

For empathy we need "an other." For example, a child can learn to ride a bike because they're taught how to do it by someone else (or several other people). It's exactly the same with empathy. Human beings need other people in order to develop this skill. There are three different types, or levels, of empathy. First, we find emotional empathy. Under that is a little more complexity, let's look at something that is eminently human, like cognition, judgment, thoughts... everything relational, that has to do with the cortex. The third and last level of empathy consists of a change of perspective. This is when you put yourself in another person's position, but add something in relation to yourself.

How can we make our children sensitive and empathetic? Just like we say that to get a child to learn how to swim, we need to teach them how to swim, that is, to use models and have them learn gradually, that driving behavior. With empathy, it's exactly the same. In the words of Mother Teresa, "Don't worry about what you tell your children, be concerned instead about what you do."

How to handle tantrums

It's round about the age of four or five that children develop a mature sense of empathy. It's something that requires a great deal of time to acquire. Thereafter, children develop another skill closely related to empathy know as "theory of mind". This is the ability to put yourself in another person's place and to be able to understand their emotions, ideas, thoughts and expectations.

What a better time, what a better place for our children than learning to get frustrated with mom and dad. However, you have to help them learn how to deal with it. You can't just make sure they never experience frustration and suffering if you want them to become independent and be able to cope with the really frustrating situations they'll come up against when they're adults.

Children learn how to deal with frustration by being frustrated. They learn to cope with feeling frustrated by being angry. Also, parents are able to offer kids strategies to help them work through their emotions. In order to be able to use the tools you have to deal with a frustrating situation, you must first be able to see it for what it is. You'll find it difficult to manage your emotions if you have not been given the tools to do so by someone else. However, in order to use these tools, you must first acknowledge that you feel frustrated rather than sad. It's not just that you feel frustrated and that's it, but that you feel frustrated because you didn't get the job you want, or the place on the Master's course you wanted to study.

Human beings is predisposed to learn. because they have cognitive needs. We all want to learn. We all want to be the best version of ourselves. Version 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, etc. So, we all tend to get better at things, as we have a need for self-improvement by, say, being promoted at work, taking on a new role within the family or through personal development.

He holds a degree in Clinical Psychology and Health from the Complutense University of Madrid, and a PhD in Education. Author of the book "Educación emocional y apego," a guide to make children and young people into emotional experts. Mr. Guerrero often gives talks about how to improve relationships with children and alleviate the effects of the dreaded tantrum.