You don’t have to be particularly religious to know and value those words. In fact, David Koespell writes in Parenting Beyond Belief,
“Recent studies indicate that the Golden Rule is naturalistically based. Studies of ape culture, and other animals, have shown that reciprocal altruism abounds in the natural world.”
Parents looking to introduce the universality of the Golden Rule may want to use The Golden Rule by Ilene Cooper as a way of opening a discussion with their kids. The picture book talks about the meaning of the words and shares various versions of the Golden Rule from religions around the world. It is an opportunity to build religious literacy and talk about behavior, both of which are good things. But for those who want to skip the “religious literacy” part of it this time, Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners by Laurie Keller is a fun take on the topic with lots of kid-friendly humor and a relatable situation (new neighbors).
Koespell goes on to write,
“This general rule, simply stated, makes good sense, although there are also certain common-sense exceptions. Teaching it may not only make good sense, but it is already acceptable to most children once they develop the psychological capacity for empathy and can envision themselves in the shoes of another. ‘Now how would you feel, Rayna, if Jordan did X to you?'”
Empathy. Researcher Christine Carter talk about empathy a lot in her book Raising Happiness. I know I’ve mentioned this book on this blog before (more than once actually), but I can’t help but recommend it again. Raising Happiness is about emotional intelligence for parents and kids. It is full of practical ideas for creating an emotionally healthy family life. In particular, you can start building empathy in young children just by teaching them to label their feelings. In our family, we like to use “I feel” statements, and Ladybug has picked up on it too. Carter suggests role-playing with kids and teach them the tools of mindfulness meditation at a young age.
How do you encourage empathy in your family? Please share your ideas!
For more about religion and science, see my Secular Thursday page.
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