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Why Kids Need Our Empathy, Not Our Criticism

by | Nov 17, 2018 | School

In my experiences talking with parents, through both my job and my social circles, it seems there is an increasing understanding of the many challenges children face and arrive with every day at school. This is something educators see frequently, as they get to know hundreds, even thousands of students throughout their career. Many children are dealing with more than we can imagine. They need all the love in the world for the struggles they are facing. They need adults who understand that the behavior they’re exhibiting, which isn’t always desirable, is a symptom of a deeper cause.

On the flip side, I have heard adults talk about “that kid” who is always in trouble, the one they wish wasn’t in their child’s class again this year, and the one who must not have any discipline at home. Judging is easy; understanding requires more of us.When we’re talking about “that kid,” whether we’re educators, parents, or both, let’s keep in mind that he or she might:

  • be really tired because she listened to her parents shouting at each other while she was trying to sleep last night
  • not have had breakfast this morning and not yesterday either; he’s not sure whether there will be anything tomorrow
  • be overcome with anxiety and worked really hard to make it to school today
  • be wearing the same clothes again today because that’s all she has or because no one has done laundry for the last couple weeks
  • be worried about his dad because he left the other day and hasn’t been back
  • not have her homework done neatly because the only quiet space to work was under her bed, with a flashlight
  • be at his fifth new school and not sure how long it will be before he moves again
  • be hoping no one teases her again today

The children who face the situations above did not create these struggles, but they do have to live with them. They are more than deserving of adults – and peers – who provide them with understanding and support. They don’t need to be on the receiving end of “that kid” conversations.

Written by: Erin Agnello, BA/BEd/OCT

Edited & Designed by: Christina Denham

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John Haber
John Haber

My name is John Haber. I’m a Pediatric Occupational Therapist and the founder of Nogginsland. I became a COTA in 2003, and then went back to school much later, receiving my Master’s Degree in OT from Mercy College in New York in 2016.

Over the years, I’ve worked with a variety of populations in different settings, from school districts, to developmental disability centers, to children’s hospitals.