Notes on UnSelfie by Michele Borba
I attended a parenting talk a while ago, and the speaker recommended the book UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World by Michele Borba. I recently finished reading it and thought it was decent. The book seemed to have a mnemonic/acronym for every situation, which I thought was clever but also tiring by the end. I did appreciate reading about all the different games and example activities that can help develop empathy in kids and the research behind why empathy helps kids succeed.
Below are my main notes and takeaways from the book.
Empathy building applications
Can be taught
9 essential competencies
Empathy starts with human connection
Part 1 developing empathy
1 empathetic children can recognize feelings: teaching emotional literacy
Literacy of feelings
Roots of Empathy program
Need face to face communications
Labeling kid’s emotions
Asking how feel
Be an emotional coach. Connect face to face and at eye level.
Use a baby to learn
Raise a puppy. Volunteer in a shelter. Observe its emotions.
Tutor a child
Video call grandma
Stop and tune in. Hit pause on everything else. Put away digital devices.
Look face to face. Look at color of eyes. Staring contest.
Focus on feelings. Label them. Name them. Pose questions about them. Match emotions with gestures and describe the gestures you see.
Express the feelings. Ask kid how do you feel? If something feels bad and you say how you feel, you will feel better.
Take a digital reality check
Set unplug times and places
Check your digital habits
Dinner chat about feelings weekly
Basket of emotion cards
I felt most proud this week when…
Vote on who had most interesting experience
Share your own feelings with kids at unplug times
Have kids ask you how your day was then reverse
Find a time to share feelings and age by age strategies
Post colored object on door to designate your mood
Do not disturb sign
Build a feeling vocabulary
Teach more complex words
Decode nonverbal cues
What is she feeling like there? Why are her shoulders up?
Use baby books and baby photos
How do you think you feel here?
Be feeling detectives
Ask about how others are you probably feeling
Use more emotion words especially with boys
They’ll open up while doing something or play a game
Use emotion charged videos
Make feeling flashcards and play charades
Read books about feelings. Put feelings on your face.
Create a how you feel card with 20 faces and emotion labels
Face to face is way to learn
Kids on digital devices too much
Personal up close experiences are way to learn
Kids need emotion vocabulary
Parents encourage daughters more about feelings than sons
2 empathetic children have moral identity
Imagine self as moral person
Praise thoughtfulness and good moral character
Recognize value of their moral identity
Narcissism score increasing too much
Avoid overexuberant praise
Parents instill moral identity in their kids
Think of self as someone who cares
You are the kind of person who lives to help
Take a reality check
Align praise with character
Use nouns not verbs. Kids invited to be helpers not just to help.
Focus on character not behavior
Model it. What adult does affects what kids do.
Stick to beliefs. “Refuse” acronym
Review who you are and refuse situation if doesn’t align
Express your belief
Use strong posture
Create family mantra to boost identity
Special family meeting
Identify core values
Create family mantra and individual ones for each kid
Repeat values often
Be a role model
Hold family debates
Develop your best possible self
Create a virtue scrap book
Write a birthday letter to review year
Capture caring moments
Teaching conscience decisions
Golden rule test
Is this me test
School assembly test
Helpful or hurtful test
Family values test
3 R’s test (reputation, relationships, regret later)
Encourage self talk
Use KIND rule
Is it kind
Is it inspirational
Is it necessary
Is it definite
Top 5 things to develop moral identity
3 empathetic kids understand the needs of others. Instilling perspective taking
Discrimination exercise based on student eye color in class
Watchung, helping, doing
Ask questions about how someone else might be feeling or thinking
Induction: teach perpetrator the effect of their actions on the person harmed
You made your friend cry. I expect you to do better. What will you do to make your friend feel happier?
Express disappointment not anger
Teach kids to understand others’ perspective
Call attention to uncaring and why it was
Assess how uncaring affects others. Focus on others’ thoughts. Ask how they would feel if it were them.
Repair the hurt and relationship. Reparations. What will you do to fix the situation and that you regret what you did?
Express disappointment and expectations about caring
Focus. Pay attention to other.
Sit or stand still
Open to others’ feeling
Lean slightly to express interest
Look eye to eye
Acknowledge speaker’s views
Look and listen for how they feel and repeat it back to them
Imagine. Put self in their shoes.
Share. Explain what you think other is feeling. Paraphrase thoughts. Repeat. I heard you say x.
Offer support. Can I help?
Try props to understand how another feels
Redo uncaring behavior
Ask “I wonder what x thinks”
Feels + needs: what does someone feel and what do they need to feel better
Introduce disadvantages to know how someone feels
Take kid to work
4 empathetic children have a moral imagination. Reading to cultivate empathy
Reading affects future success
Digital screens reduce reading pleasure
Reading more fiction creates more empathy
Fiction teaches us to identify and understand characters
Put names of characters on shoes and have kids step into them and pretend to be the character
Use what if questions. What if you were the character? What would you do?
Ask how would you feel?
Match to kid reading level not age
Don't stop reading out loud
Ask child to make up ending for movie
Make your face look like that other kid’s face and see how you feel
Use audio books
Start book clubs
Part 2 practicing empathy
5 empathetic kids can keep their cool
Today I had a problem when x. It made me feel x. A possible short term solution is x. A possible long term solution is x.
Calm down corner
Just breathe if upset
Slow belly breathing
Rate intensity of emotion after naming it
Breathe kind wishes for helpers
6 empathetic children practice kindness
Talk about kindness
Kindness box or jar to write down good deeds
7 empathetic children focus on us and team
Focus on collaboration
Creating common cause for all to work together towards
Take a stand to solve a problem collaboratively
Stop and listen for feelings
Take turns coming up with ideas
Embrace camaraderie not the win
Learn about others
Part 3 living with empathy
8 moral courage, avoiding bullying
Listen to kids
Expect children to be responsible and care for others
Offer heroes to learn about
Try small scale courage
Stand up for others
9 empathetic children want to make a difference. Growing change makers
Find a cause that concerns your child
Start with 1 person to help first
Break down barriers
Play chess and unplugged games
Create parent support networks
Build caring relationships
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