My 3 year is as cute as can be and can be nice to her older sister and friends.

But she does not seem to feel bad for anything she does that does not cause her pain. She can hit and really hurt her sister, friends or parents. When she does something like this it is clear that she does not feel bad that she hurt someone. It is also clear that she does not really even understand that she should feel remorse for causing someone else pain.

I have tried getting upset at her, putting her in time out and such things. Once I do that, then she feels bad and starts to cry, but that is because of the punishment she is getting. Not because she gave her sister a goose egg on the head.

I did not have to deal with this with my first daughter because she has always felt really bad if she hurts someone. So I am a bit confused now.

How can you teach a child to empathize with pain that they cause? Or am I worrying over nothing and she will just grow out of this?

asked 05 Aug '10, 22:55

Vaccano's gravatar image

accept rate: 33%

+1. Brilliant question!

(06 Aug '10, 06:43) Emi

Empathy is something we learn, and it sounds like your older daughter had the kind of personality that picked up empathy for other people when she was quite young, easily and quickly, and your younger daughter just isn't there.

We all learn to be empathetic to other people through our caregivers modeling it for us, and since parents tend to automatically model empathy in the same way to their children, if there is a marked difference in "picking-up" the modeling it's probably due to the temperament of the child.

You might want to look at it as a learning curve problem, your older daughter was way, way ahead of the curve when she was small, your 3 year old is right there in the bulge with most of the other little kids her age. Most 3 year olds just don't get it yet, so don't worry. (And yeah, give her timeouts 'cause it isn't acceptable to hurt other people, but don't expect her to feel bad about having smoked her sister in the head.)

This is a really good article about the stages of learning empathy from Scolastic, it's aimed at teachers, but there is great stuff in there.

Ages and Stages: Empathy

So, basically, to actually answer your questions, you teach them to feel bad when they hurt someone by feeling bad for them when they get hurt, and since your older daughter has a lot empathy for people, you must be doing a great job of that already, and you have nothing to worry about. She'll catch on, and actually, she'll grow into it, not out of it. :)

(I did a lot of research when my oldest was about 3, he wasn't so much with the "feeling sorry" thing either. I was, and it freaked me out. Lots and lots of library books!)


answered 06 Aug '10, 05:16

Neen's gravatar image

accept rate: 30%

+1 Great points

(06 Aug '10, 06:48) Emi
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Asked: 05 Aug '10, 22:55

Seen: 5,194 times

Last updated: 06 Aug '10, 05:16