With June, the final month of the school year, upon us, we focus at BCS on our next habit of empathy from Michelle Borba’s book Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Success in Our All-About-Me World. June’ s focus is that empathetic people Want to Make a Difference. Indeed, this focus can carry the students and you through the summer months, not just the month of June. In her book and in the brief video I included below, Borba encourages us to cultivate altruistic leadership abilities in order to motivate children to make a difference for others, no matter how small it may be, and boost their chances of becoming “Social Changemakers.” But, from this robust challenge to adults who nurture the development of children, how do we do this? Borba suggests the following: understand the obstacles, cultivate a changemaking mindset, help students become a changemaker, and things to know about raising a changemaker.
So, what are the obstacles for kids to becoming altruistic leaders?
- Fame-Driven Heroes
- A Materialistic World
- An “Overhelping” Parenting Style
- Anything else?
How can we truly cultivate a changemaking mindset?
- Teach the Growth Mindset Model (see a previous post Growth Mindset – Fixin’ to See Its Implication for Adults & Kids Alike)
- Emphasize Effort
- Encourage Practice
- Recap the Impact
So, where should we start? Borba suggests the acronym F.A.C.E.
- F = feelings -to read the person’s feelings
- A = analyze the situation
- C = care
- E = empathize – let the person know you are concerned
What steps can I help students through to become a changemaker?
- Find a cause that concerns your child
- Think of Possibilities
- Plan it
- Start Locally
- Encourage “Direct Contact”
- Keep Going!
Borba closes this chapter of her book with “5 Things to Know about Raising Changemakers”:
- Stretching your kid’s helping muscles must be ongoing so make helping others a routine part of their childhood.
- A child who sees herself as altruistic is more likely to help others because children act in ways that match their self image. Help your child to see herself as a helper.
- Kids who are given regular opportunities to help and comfort others tend to become more helpful and compassionate.
- People who believe that empathy has the potential to grow are more likely to exert effort to empathize when it is needed most. Help your child to recognize that empathy can be improved with practice and help him develop an empathetic growth mindset so that he knows that traits like empathy, caring, kindness and courage can be developed.
- Kids tend to empathize with people they are close to, so expand your child’s circle of familiarity to include those of different backgrounds and experiences.
In an article from Psychology Today called Empathy and Altruism: Are They Selfish?, Neel Burton sets out to answer that question and how one leads to the other. He states that “Empathy leads to compassion, which is one of the main motivators of altruism.” But, Burton wonders, are altruistic acts selfish? He concluded by arguing that “there can be no such thing as an ‘altruistic’ act that does not involve some element of self-interest…that does not lead to some degree, no matter how small, of pride or satisfaction. Therefore, an act should not be written off as selfish or self-motivated simply because it includes some unavoidable element of self-interest. The act can still be counted as altruistic if the ‘selfish’ element is accidental; or, if not accidental, then secondary; or, if neither accidental nor secondary, then undetermining. Only one question remains: how many so-called altruistic acts meet these criteria for true altruism?
So, I feel compelled to note that, even altruism seems to have a scale from “selfish altruism” “to selfless altruism”; though can altruism ever be truly selfless when you’re empathetically involved? Take a peak at this brief advertisement with the power that “when the best of us steps up, our nation stands a little taller.” While watching the video, keep Borba’s notes above in the forefront of your mind. Let’s grow altruistic leaders who step up AND let’s use this summer as a great launching pad!
Below is a brief video with Michelle Borba with strategies on how parents can “raise an altruistic kid”.