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Teaching Your Children Sensitivity Paperback – March 1, 1995
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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Although the task of helping typically self-absorbed children become aware of the needs and feelings of others is daunting, sensitivity lies at the heart of those values and qualities responsible parents strive to develop in their offspring. The authors of Teaching Your Children Values (1993) explore the concept of sensitivity to others and how to nurture it and propose a practical nine-month program of skills and awareness development. Progressing through understanding, observing, feeling, communicating, and doing, the Eyres provide practical advice, illustrative stories, parental approaches, and exercises for reinforcing those sensitivity skills. The fresh techniques they advocate, like writing poetry and playing detective, are to help children and their parents hone their abilities to be more honest about their own feelings, more aware of others'. The inspirational, interesting process the Eyres present will make being good more enjoyable for children and doing good more meaningful for adolescents. Kathryn Carpenter
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I've made a lifelong project out of developing social skills, since I grew up somewhat lacking in them. Through exhaustive research and experimentation, I finally found some authors and approaches that I feel really work (see Constructive Living and other books by David K. Reynolds, and the todoinstitute.org and books by Gregg Krech). The Eyres' approach dovetails very well with these other philosophies and complements them, but it is more activity based and family friendly.
The book is arranged to be worked through over nine months. Each month has a focus, with thought-provoking quotations, suggested activities for parents and children, and a "family focus" which is intended to start a new tradition in your family. The Eyres suggest that parents first try to learn and practice the skills, and then share what they're doing with their kids.
The skills build on each other. They start with skills of Observing (Seeing, Listening), then skills of Feeling (Congruence, Concern, Empathy), next Communicating (Expressing what we see, Communicating what we feel), and finally Doing (Service, Anonymous service).
The Eyres give the best exposition on the importance of "feelings" that I've ever read; including that great art is essentially a communication of feeling. It's especially powerful, coming from a no-nonsense business consultant (Richard Eyre). In general, what I think gives the Eyres' approach such genius and well-roundedness is that they marry disparate elements in so many ways. To begin with, Richard the business consultant is married to Linda, the musician. They combine a business type "parenting with goals and a plan" focus with an emphasis on the arts, both of which are so vitally important.
Second, as one of America's leading proponents of values parenting, and as a religious family (though they definitely do not proselytize in their books), you might think they would be "goody-goody." But they are not. Their books are very honest, and their family is "normal" in the sense of having the same problems and concerns that we all do.
Third, they emphasize responsibility, and their kids are refreshingly non-indulged. At the same time they promote nurturing, communicating one's love to one's children and loyalty to family in very specific and creative ways (see their wonderful "The Book of Nurturing"). Throughout all their books, their immense love for their children comes through in such an inspiring and poetic manner that I've often quoted them on this topic.
As for the book's activities, many are games (that involve family discussion), some involve writing (poetry, journaling) or public speaking (within the family), some are awards, and there is a monthly prequiz and postquiz. As a parent and teacher, I have found that these types of activities are fun and motivating to kids, and valuable to their cognitive as well as emotional development.
The book is interspersed with interesting stories from the Eyres' own lives with their kids, some of which took place in other countries they've lived on traveled in. There are also stories from people that have written to them, plus fables that illustrate their points.
In conclusion, this book has taught ME more about social skills than any of the other considerable number of books on the subject I've read. I would give it a top rating even if I were not a parent! I only wish I would have read it earlier. In "Teaching Your Child Values," they suggested that "sensitivity" is related to the teenage years, so I put off reading it. This book applies to parents and kids of ALL ages, and the Eyres' books may be read in any order (they are all fantastic!)
I wish that the Eyres would republish this book with a new title: something like "Teaching Your Child Extracenteredness" or "Teaching Your Child Unselfishness." Parents are desperate over their children's selfishness, and I think a new title might bring this fantastic book the recognition it deserves.