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Teaching Kids to See From Another Person's Perspective

by Erica Loop, studioD

Although adults have years of practice seeing life from someone else's perspective, kids are just developing the cognitive and emotional skills to do the same. Teaching your little learner perspective-taking is key to her personal and social growth.

Empathy Development

Before your child can truly see the world from someone else's perspective, he will need to develop some sense of empathy. During the toddler years, according to the child development experts at PBS Parents, your child is beginning to show a more serious sense of awareness for other people's feelings. As he moves into the preschool years, he will develop these feelings and better understand that other children or adults have different emotions at different times. For example, your 3-year-old might pat his little sister on the head when she falls down, knowing that she is hurt and sad.

Role Modeling

Your child is watching you, taking cues from your behaviors and actions. If you are constantly putting other people down, picking fights and don't seem to care when you hurt another person's feelings, she will come to think that these are all acceptable actions. Keep in mind that your child has little frame of reference to guide her, other than your own actions. The educational experts at the national early childhood organization Zero to Three suggest that you model empathetic behaviors for your young child, helping her to see how you can take other people's perspectives. Instead of just instructing or telling your child to respect others, show her how you follow your own rules daily.


If your own everyday actions aren't cutting it, you can set up a dramatic role play scenario to push the point of taking other people's perspectives. Role playing literally allows your child to take on someone else's role and see what that person is thinking, behaving like and how they are influencing others (See References, 4). While your toddler or young preschooler may struggle with this type of more sophisticated leaning activity, your grade schooler -- or tween and teen -- can sue role play to better understand what his friends, teachers or other adults are feeling. For example, if the teacher calls to tell you that he is calling a classmate, "stupid," set up a role-play scene in which he acts as the classmate and you are him. This can help him to take the other child's perspective and see the error of his ways.

Open-ended Questions

Lectures and monologues about the importance of perspective-taking might fall on inattentive or uninterested ears when it comes to discussing empathy with your child. If your pleas for your child to think more about how other people feel aren't helping, try a discussion session that involves open-ended questions. Instead of saying, "You should feel bad for Emily because you were mean to her, " change up your statement to a questions and ask, "How do you think Emily felt when you called her uncool?"

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

Photo Credits

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