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Tips for raising empathetic boys

As a mother of two young boys, who are fast and furiously approaching adolescence, I have the great responsibility of raising them to be empathetic and compassionate young men. This is a humbling obligation that I find to be of great importance in a world where bullying is a concern all parents are facing. Empathy—simply put—is the ability to understand and sensitively consider the feelings of others. Rough and tumble boys can be empathetic and compassionate to others, and I have identified several tips for helping to accomplish this important task.

1. Lead by example.
Show empathy to others and your children will notice. This can be as simple as holding a door open for a stranger. If you want your boys to display a certain behavior, then you as a parent need to display that behavior.

2. Use praise when you catch your boys being kind.
Draw attention to good behavior by praising your child when they display empathy without being coached. I often find myself reminding my boys to act kindly, especially to each other, but when they make an independent act of kindness I make it a point to acknowledge that act. You don't have to overdo the praise, but a simple, "I saw how you helped your brother with that and I want to thank you for being kind," is a perfect way to bring positivity to your child's compassionate behavior.

3. Volunteer.
What better way is there to show compassion for others than to volunteer together as a family? Your children will gain a great sense of personal accountability when they help others that are in need. There are many different ways to volunteer in your community that are feasible for children of all ages. Helping those in need is a great way to practice empathy as a family.

4. Show affection.
I have found that my boys respond to hugs, kisses and affection more than words at times. Positive talk is important, but there is nothing like a warm embrace that brings a sense of connection between you and your child. Boys need snuggles and love just as much as girls.

5. Celebrate individuality.
Teach your children that everyone is different and that our differences are something to be celebrated and not looked at as a bad thing. Helping your child to be tolerant, patient and understanding will help him to be mindful and considerate of the feelings of others.

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