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Why empathy is central in Montessori education

it was a real crowning moment to see two of our children coming to comfort their upset classmate. It was one of these days when we feel that our efforts in teaching and integrating empathy within our children's community are finally echoing within our school.

Empathy is the 21st-century skill

Empathy is said to be the 21st-century skill and is the cornerstone of emotional intelligence. We take empathy very seriously at Nile River Montessori and at every real Montessori preschool and school. It is important for children’s social and emotional development and it helps create a safe and harmonious community for children to develop, grow and learn in.

So what is empathy?

Well, empathy is the ability to understand someone else’s feelings, or the ability to see other people’s perspectives, or simply to put oneself into someone else’s shoes.

Essential skills for success

The world is changing and the requirements for success are also changing. Our children need to have a complex and varied set of skills for their future success: “They must be able to think critically, collaborate effectively, and approach problems creatively”. So empathy helps unlock important life skills children need, like effective communication, collaboration, compassion, critical thinking, problem-solving and conflict resolution, and managing emotions and interpersonal skills.

How to spread empathy and kindness in our community

At Nile River Montessori, life skills are at the heart of our education. What others call “soft skills”, in Montessori preschools and schools we call “essential skills”. Empathy is one important pillar of these.

Our teachers prepare purposeful lessons on empathy, and model kindness, care and love until these are transferred among the children and echo throughout the school community. When they join our community, most children are more egocentric: it is normal for a child to focus on their needs, especially before the formation of the ego. Little by little, they start to become more and more empathic. This helps them connect with one another and to create cohesion within the group.

At our Nile River Montessori school, if a child falls, for instance, you can see children rushing to provide support: one child runs to get a glass of water, another an ice cube to put on the bump, one gets the hanky to wipe the tears, others surround the child with care until the child is feeling better.

Empathy to develop confidence and leadership skills

Introducing this life skill in early childhood is essential to help build compassionate and kind human beings. Empathetic children develop meaningful relationships with their classmates, teachers, family members, and others.

It takes self-confidence to be able to show empathy to others. It is certainly an important life skill and helps develop leadership skills. Leadership when mixed with empathy creates a happier, healthier, and more cohesive community. The seeds of empathy are put from early childhood and are carried throughout life to help create a brighter future for the next generation.

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