Slow Down to Help Kids Build Empathy


What is your primary goal for your child’s education? Is it getting good grades, collecting as many awards and scholarships as possible, or participating in as many sports and activities as possible?

Leonard Sax MD, PhD is the author of School Choice: An Elon Musk School or a Mother Teresa School? According to Dr. Sax, the mindset of an Elon Musk school is achievement. Unfortunately, most of us have subscribed to the thought that this is the only type of education that encourages “success”. However, the downfall of this style of education is that it prioritizes self-enhancement and achievement. This focus on achievement is causing a deficit in empathy.

Empathy is a crucial virtue. Empathy is critical for healthy relationships, cultivates understanding, and generates compassion.

Dr. Sax encourages parents to prioritize a Sister Teresa style of education, which teaches children to look outward by focusing on helping others, making the world a better place, learning about different cultures, and appreciating nature. The benefit of this education is self-transcendence, which leads to the development of empathy.

As a parent, SLOWING DOWN is vital for giving your children a Sister Teresa style of education and developing the virtue of empathy. The need to SLOW DOWN is supported by the famous Good Samaritan Study. A group of Princeton Seminary students were asked to give a speech on The Good Samaritan, a Bible story about an abused man left to die on the side of the road. The victim was rescued by the good Samaritan but ignored by several ‘religious’ people.

The students were individually sent to give their speech on The Good Samaritan. One-third of the students were told that they were going to be early, one-third were told they were going to be on time, and one-third were told they were going to be late.

While the students were on their way to give the speech, a stranger was staged to fall in front of them. Overall, only 40% of the students stopped to offer help. Of those who helped, 63% believed they were early, 45% believed they were on time, and 10% believed they were late.

The bottom line is this: the students who had a little extra time to pay attention to the stranger were more likely to stop and help. We can talk to our children about the importance of helping others, we can make our children watch movies and read books about helping others, and we can even make our children write and give speeches about helping others, but if we do not leave time for our children to take the focus off themselves, we are not helping them develop empathy.

Leave time in your child’s day for them to truly see the people, animals, plants, and beauty around them. Allow them to see how truly small they are in the grandness of the world. Let them wander off and pick flowers for your neighbor. Let them have an extended conversation with the other mother at the park. Give them time to draw a card to give their teacher. Do not keep them so busy focusing on success that they do not have the opportunity to build the virtue of empathy.

Dr. Beth Long received her education in Counseling Psychology from Chapman University. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Beth has worked in six unique clinical environments across the country and currently owns Works of Wonder Therapy in Montgomery. Beth utilizes the knowledge from a variety of different disciplines to give her patients the best care possible. To learn more visit


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