Unselfie is based on and filled with a decade of Borba's research into teaching children empathy. Rather than being a dry treatise, the books is also filled with fascinating stories drawn from Borba's work as an educational psychologist and speaker.
The book is how-to guide for parents and teachers of babies through young adults presented in three parts:
Anecdotes and research support the more than 300 real-life, age-appropriate strategies and activities for practicing kindness.
Michele Borba, Ed.D.
Borba, a former classroom and special education teacher, author and parenting child authority, has long been considered a foremost expert in moral and character development. Her clients include Sesame Street, Harvard, the US Air Force Academy and the Today Show, among many others.
Borba's rationale for offering a research-based plan - focused on nine essential empathy habits - for addressing our children's empathy crisis is simple: empathy is a trait which can be developed throughout a child's life.
"What do kids really need to be happy and successful?"
No shhhsh-ing, just pats and "it's okay"
My Little Guy loves his baby sister, Noodle, and is quite aware of how the adults take care of her. In the first month she was home he has explained to his MamaDad that shhhsh-ing Noodle when she needs comfort was not the way to do it! He showed them that Noodle needs gentle, little pats on her back with "it's okay" repeated over and over. What's humorous about this story is that he knows shhh-ing is not good for his baby sister because our talkative Little Guy is often shhsh-ed during nap time at preschool....
In terms of empathy, this story is fascinating! My Daughter and Son diligently help Little Guy to identify his feelings -- teaching emotional literacy is one of the foundational steps towards empathy -- and are beginning to talk with him about others' feelings.
Somehow Little Guy has internalized the idea that being shhsh-ed is not kind and really does not want even his MamaDad to use it with his sister -- he's watching out for her feelings.
Little Guy is developing a pretty strong foundation for mastering empathy as he grows up. And very little fear of letting others know the best way of showing empathy! Let's hope he hangs on to this -- what Borba calls moral courage -- as he grows up.
Unselfie is a parenting book which does tell parents that developing their child's empathy is most important for their life-long happiness and success. And I had intended to give the book a qualified recommendation for just that reason -- remember, I believe parents have everything they need to rear their children well. But the more I think about Borba's message, how she's structured the book, and examine her other work, the more I lean towards a full recommendation.
I think we should teach our kiddos to be kind, really kind because it's the right thing to do as a parent and grandparent, not because it will give them success and happiness. But Borba's concrete suggestions on how to do this are thoughtful and practical. For this reason I would suggest the book is a must-add-to-your-parenting-bookshelf.