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Has anyone successfully developed "Empathy" in their teenager?

(11 Posts)
Sonnet Thu 24-Mar-16 10:52:51

Has anyone successfully developed "Empathy" in their teenager?

My second DD is 15 and completely lacks any sort of empathy. Her whole world revolves around herself, what she wants. Whilst I love her unconditionally I am really having trouble liking her at the moment.

DD1 was a different kettle of fish and has always shown empathy. I just wondered if I was missing something - should I be showing her IYKWIM?

Kelsoooo Thu 24-Mar-16 10:54:24

Some teenagers don't have empathy as such. Not to the level we'd expect, they're generally very absorbed.

Keep talkin to her, demonstrating empathy and asking her "how would it make you feel" and explain that's how it makes others feel.

Sonnet Thu 24-Mar-16 10:59:05

Thank you Kelsoooo - I think I have missed that simple step really. I just expected her to pick up on it like DD1. It is almost like going back to toddler stage isn't it?!

Bluelilies Thu 24-Mar-16 17:43:34

It's something that doesn't always come naturally to my DD. I do as suggested above and do a lot of "imagine you were X and Y had said that about you... " with her which sometimes seems to work. I also do a lot of reminding her that people are different from each other and just because she thinks it wouldn't upset her if someone had done whatever it is that her friend's upset about her doing, doesn't mean it hasn't upset the friend.

She had a big fall out with her previously best friend recently because DD told other people things her friend felt she'd told DD in confidence. DD was saying "How was I suppossed to know she'd be upset about that?!" hmm I've encouraged her to ask another time whether or not something would upset her friend. I do think empathy can be learned you a large extent

rogueantimatter Fri 25-Mar-16 10:49:48

You sound like a great mum. It's so easy to just go 'Teenagers eh' and complain, feel martyred or be annoyed. I should know - done it myself

I find the knowledge that the teenage brain is rewiring is useful to remember and to say to my teens too!

I think you're right to try to make allowances for them but also work on this with them. (My DS has aspergers. He got facebook last year which was a revelation to me - no acknowledgment of posts people put up for his birthday. This year I told him to like or reply to them. I know that probably sounds extremely interfering but we want our DC to grow up to be nice after all.)

lovelilies Fri 25-Mar-16 10:58:48

Sounds like my DD who's only 10, going on 17!
Gives me the hmm when I point out something ungrateful/ hurtful/ thoughtless she's said or done. Genuinely doesn't seem to 'get it'.
Even her 2 yo brother is more caring and empathic!
Following for advice, and how to try and make her a bit nicer person sad

Muskey Fri 25-Mar-16 11:10:02

Empathy is not a strong point in dd 12. Although to be fair dh doesn't seem to do empathy either. It never occurred to me to say put yourself in someone else's shoes (not sure why perhaps because I thought it was obvious). I must try and do this more. Thanks op for posting this and thanks pp for the sound advice

rogueantimatter Fri 25-Mar-16 11:22:31

I was very self-absorbed and lacking in empathy as a teenager. Not in all situations, but I'd have been like Bluelilies DD with things like not getting why a friend was upset about not keeping something told in confidence. (I recently decided I have aspergers) Part of my problem was that I was extremely sensitive to criticism - it was so painful to feel that I had behaved badly that I'd refuse to accept the criticism and look to blame other people. As an adult I think I'm now very understanding, always looking to understand why people are the way they are and remember that we're all equally deserving of happiness. It has just taken a very long time.

So my advice, FWIW would be to be very gentle and kind with a child lacking in empathy when talking about their behaviour, Make a positive case for being nice, and try to notice all kind/sociable/'good' behaviour. And be understanding and non-judgmental about 'negative' feelings they seem to have, eg jealousy. I remember my mum once saying that there seemed to be "a touch of the green-eyed monster" when I had presumably made an unkind comment about someone. I was furious. How dare she accuse me of being a horrible person - jealousy is bad and wrong. (She was right). If you can find a way to really properly talk about things like that - how does it make you feel to be jealous/offended etc that's probably the way to go. Much much easier said than done of course.

Apologies if all this is irrelevant.

tothesideoftheirlives Fri 25-Mar-16 12:25:36

Your post is not irrelevant rougue - I think its just helped me understand DS who's 12 a bit more and I will take your advice. He is extremely sensitive to criticism.

I am going to stress the positive case for being nice much much more.

Kelsoooo Fri 25-Mar-16 12:29:57

I agree with totheside about your post rougue . I'd say I still have that in me now.

I abhor criticism now, so I go out of my way to avoid it (think things like, not speaking French in France in front of my husband, despite the fact I'm more fluent than him in case he laughed/commented at all). I'm also quite a jealous person. And I know that's bad, so I deflect, laugh off comments and can be quite callous to protect myself.....

I'm also very empathetic now.

OP do you feel more positive now other posters have said they have the same issues? Knowing that there's a reason as opposed to any parenting/personality issues?

It is probably just a stage, and yes. Very very much like toddlers, we have to teach and guide teenagers as much as, if not more so, than toddlers.

Alvah Sun 27-Mar-16 13:04:45

For me what has worked the best in encouraging empathy in my teens, has been to lay off the criticisms and show them empathy. I'm not sure true empathy can be taught as such from the outside, it needs to be experienced and developed from the inside, I think.

I agree teens are like toddlers, giant ones and much more at risk. But they are often emotionally vulnerable and a small criticism can knock their confidence. Likewise an authentic complement can boost them significantly.

It is very tricky to treat a giant (sometimes very rude, raging and unreasonable) toddler with empathy, compassion, trust and praise, however this seems to be the recipe for a happier home in my house.

We've been to hell and back over the last year, but things have definitely improved drastically. I'm putting it down to me approaching the situation with empathy and understanding. Although I might be wrong hmm

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