Thinking outside myself - Mid-Pacific Institute

CE - Abe

Thinking outside myself

Posted on January 15, 2016

by Ms. Abe on January 15, 2016

This past week was Mrs. Schultz's birthday. I always love to celebrate her birthday, because it is such a win-win situation: it makes her feel special and the children have such a grand time preparing for it and practicing empathy!

This past Christmas, after listening to my adult friends, I was reminded again of how challenging it is for people to buy someone a gift. (And to stereotype, it is especially hard for men to buy gifts for their significant others.)

At school, we are always thinking of how we can prepare children for life. I am hoping that after practicing, the children have strategies to figure out how to find a special gift for someone else!

With the kindergartners, we started with the question, "What makes me happy? What do I want for my birthday?" Oh, the hands shot up quickly! All sorts of Lego, a puppy, My Little Pony, Kamenrider, different games for the iPad - they were eager to share what they wanted for their birthdays.

"What will make Mrs. Schultz happy on her birthday?" It's challenging to think outside yourself. If you want something, does that mean someone else will like that same thing? They knew that something that makes them happy may not make Mrs. Schultz happy. (Admittedly, some adults are still learning this, although it's not as obvious as not buying My Little Pony for an older woman -- although maybe to the woman it might be obvious ("Why did he buy me this?!")... )

As the kindergartners brainstormed suggestions, I challenged them to look for clues to figure out what would make Mrs. Schultz happy on her birthday. I had them question each suggestion. They had observed a lot about her in just one semester:

Why would Mrs. Schultz like a pin? "Because she wears a pin every day."

Why would Mrs. Schultz like chocolate? "Because when I gave her chocolate she said she liked it, and I saw her in a chocolate shop."

Why would she like music and dancing? "Because she likes doing a little dance when she says good bye to us in the morning."

They also mentioned flowers, books, and dresses -- good guesses for any woman.

Thinking of what makes someone else happy is an on-going challenge at any age. My husband is honestly one of the most thoughtful people I know, but after 20 years of marriage, we have figured out that it is best for both of us if I buy my own gifts and show him what he got me. (And I just mostly buy him socks.) But hey, even that is a strategy - and it works because it makes each of us happy.