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An interesting way to understand your children better


Have you heard of an ‘Empathy Map’?  Seasoned writers and marketing people use it to communicate with their target audience and get better results. It occurred to me that an Empathy Map might be quite useful for a parent to understand the child better.

Here is what it looks like.

empathy map

 

Create an Empathy Map for a 15 year old kid, Vijay.

What does Vijay see around him?

  • Describe what Vijay sees around him.
  • What is the environment around him?
  • Who are the key people in his environment?
  • What kind of things is he exposed to?
  • What problems does he face?

 

What does Vijay hear around him?

  • What do his friends tell him?
  • What do his family members (cousins) tell him?
  • What does he hear in school? What do his teachers tell him?
  • Who influences him?
  • What influences him?

 

What does Vijay think & feel?

  • What is in his mind?
  • What really matters to him?
  • What are his dreams and aspirations?
  • What does he really love?
  • What are his concerns?

 

What does Vijay say & do?

  •  What does Vijay say and do in public?
  • What matters to them most in whatever he says & does?
  • Is there a difference between how thinks & feels, and what he says & does?
  • What does he want to be seen as by others?

 

Pains

  • What frustrates Vijay? What upsets him? Angers him?
  • What obstacles does he encounter in achieving his dreams?
  • What is he afraid of?

 

Gains

  •  What motivates Vijay?
  • What does he really want to achieve?
  • What does he want to become? What does he want to be known as?
  • What does success mean to him? How does he define success?
  • What are his plans to achieve success?

 

I recently met Abhay.  Abhay’s parents were keen for him to meet someone outside the family, to get a handle on what Abhay wants to do. I used an empathy map to understand Abhay. Here is what I found.

Abhay is a bright kid. Plays hard works hard. He has a mind of his own. He studies in one of the top schools in the city. His friends come from affluent families. Many of them get dropped to school in a BMW or a Merc. They carry ipads, iPhone (latest models etc). Some of them are nice but some others flaunt their wealth. Abhay is not jealous but it bugs him when they show off.

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Sridhar Ramanathan is the Founder of IDEASRS, where he is also a Strategic Innovation Coach. Sridhar’s mission in life is “to help those who want to do things better and differently”. His work involves conducting creative problem solving workshops for clients, and buidling competencies in creativity and innovation. He also blogs at www.ideasrs.com.


5 thoughts on “An interesting way to understand your children better

  1. Kritika Srinivasan

    This is so innovative and interesting Sridhar. And your example with Abhay shows that it can be used to great effect! A couple of questions:

    1. Is it recommended that parents do this exercise or someone else – a person who the child is comfortable with but does not know too well? I ask because I am wondering whether the child’s responses will be coloured by the fact that her parent is asking these question, so she may choose to make the answers ‘acceptable’, or in some cases, ‘provoking.!
    2. Secondly, at what age do you think something like this should be carried out? I would love to try it out with my daughter, but feel she may be too young to articulate some of the things – she is almost 8.

    Reply
  2. Sridhar

    Hi Kritika,

    1. Parents should carry out the conversation themselves. That would be preferable. If they believe some one else might be able to help the kid open up and speak freely, they can consider an outside person.
    2. I don’t have a definitive answer to the prescribed age. I think you can try this with your 8 year old daughter. I believe it will work. As long as we enjoy the process, have an open mind and don’t worry about what will come up or how to use it. Don’t use it to somehow validate your views, won’t work. Kids are quite sharp and they will sense it.

    Reply

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