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.