One of the most essential aspects of critical thinking is empathy, the ability to see things through another person’s point of view.

Authors of The Whole Brain Child provide guidance on how to teach children about considering other people’s feelings. They advocate teaching young people about “mindsight”, the ability to look inside your own mind and the mind of others to see what’s going on in there. The book has excellent illustrated examples that can be used directly with kids. Here’s a sample dialogue for teaching empathy:

“Drew came home from a playdate and told his dad that he and Tim had argued over who got to use Tim’s new water gun. They had eventually decided to take turns, but when Drew got home, he still felt angry.

He explained that since we was the guest, he felt that Tim should have let him use the new water gun. Drew’s dad listened and said he understood. Then he asked, ‘Why do you think Tim wanted to use it so much?’ Drew thought for a second. “Because it was new, and he hadn’t gotten to play with it yet?” In that moment, Drew used his mindsight to understand Tim’s feelings. He didn’t feel as mad anymore.

The next time you’re upset with someone, use your own mindsight to see how the other person feels. It can help you both feel a lot happier.”

We can then introduce a different scenario and ask the students to try to identify the point of view of each person in the scenario. We can adjust the scenarios depending on the age of our students. Imagine what might happen if all children were explicitly taught this important critical thinking skill…

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