My Child Doesn’t Seem to Have Empathy

How can I help my child to learn to care for others?

MOLLY: This came from a reader based in Florida.

Dr. Susan Rutherford (Molly’s Mom): One of the ways you can help a child learn the process of giving empathy or what empathy looks like is either by using instances that have to do with you (but you have to be careful with that) or by modeling behavior with a doll or a favorite stuffed animal.

MOLLY: What do you mean?

“Oh, look at this elephant, he really hurt himself when he fell on the floor. Let’s make him feel better.” Then you hold the stuffed elephant and pat it on the head and kiss the boo-boo better, just like you would to a person.

MOLLY: How old is a child who would respond to this type of modeling?

DR. RUTHERFORD: Young; I would say between a one and two years old. You want to start this process as young as possible, because after a child reaches the age of 6 or 7 it’s very difficult to teach empathy.

MOLLY: So, essentially, you would take a stuffed animal or doll and address them like you would want your child to treat someone who is hurt? You show your kid how to offer solace?

DR. RUTHERFORD: That’s right.

ding 3 comments on “My Child Doesn’t Seem to Have Empathy

  1. Not sure I agree with the concept of it being difficult to teach empathy after the age of 5. Our website focuses on just that. When kids visit our site (Kids Are Heroes – see they see so many other kids who give back. They are now in an atmosphere where it is normal for kids to volunteer which urges them to join in. Once they do that not only do they gain empathy, but they also develop confidence and build leadership skills. I am much older than 5 and am much more empathetic now as a result of being involved with these children.

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