Have Empathy for the “Naughty” Kids

You know the ones: They punch, kick, swear, and generally give us a hard time. Mitch Abblett, Ph.D., explores our perception of naughty kids and how we can change it with a little mindfulness.

Imagine you’re sitting on a bus. You’re lost in thought about some aspect of your daily life—the groceries on your list, whether to book that flight, why your mother is upset with you—anything. Next to you sits a young child who is bald and wearing a bandana. Her skin is blanched, there are rings under her eyes and she is clearly very ill, struggling against cancer and undergoing chemotherapy. She’s holding a book bag decorated with brightly-colored cartoon characters. Stop for a moment, think of this girl, and ask yourself how you feel. Each of us can look at a child suffering through the pains of cancer and its treatment, and the empathy comes easily.

Now, still sitting in your seat on the bus, you turn and see a boy who looks about eleven years old. He has wild-looking red hair and he’s significantly overweight. He’s sitting next to a woman who, by the way he keeps reaching into her purse and grabbing at things, must be his mother. “Stop it, Michael,” she says, her face red with embarrassment as she glances around the bus, then at you. “We’ll be stopping to eat in a minute.” Her voice is strained…