nearly 6 year old, lack of empathy

(4 Posts)
missusmrs Fri 18-Jul-14 20:50:51

My D's 5.9 has always being a challenge. He is determined strong willed routine based temper filled boy. On other hand he is very smart, clever and creative. He is generally good, knows right from wrong and is a model child at school and childminders.
My worry is his total lack of empathy. He would never comfort anyone hurt, actually laughs if someone falls over, he just seem to 'care'. He has developed a strange with his Bf they have known each other for2 years. His bf is v similar in fiery tempermanent. The past 2 play dates my D's had actively aggravated his bf to loose his temper/crying and enjoyed it. Afterwards DH and I have come down hard on consequence, bedtime stories and treats, but he is only concerned about his loss.we have talked about shoe being on the other foot how his friend feels etc but nothing sinks in. The other day we say a local lost chat poster, we know the family the dd is in his class, when I said they were said as the cat might never come back he laughed!
I feel like I'm failing big time in this huge life skill...how do you instill empathy??? ( ds2 aged 3 has it in spades, rubs mummy's arm if it sore etc etc)

flappityfanjos Fri 18-Jul-14 22:46:14

I normally hate it when idiots like me start trying to diagnose over the internet, but what you've said about him does make me think autistic spectrum. The stuff about needing routine, having a temper, differentiating between right and wrong but struggling to understand about other people's feelings. Please don't take this as any more than an unqualified suggestion, but might it be worth looking into?

Kleinzeit Sat 19-Jul-14 01:33:01

That sounds tough to watch! Some suggestions for building empathy are:
•if he hurts someone, can you insist he apologises? Apology is an important starting point for empathy, even if he doesn’t mean it to begin with keep on getting him to go through the motions.
•Keep plodding on with the “how would you feel if..” and “you were sad/angry/happy when…” even if it doesn’t seem to sink in, because it can be a long slow process. Avoid analogies like “shoe on the other foot” and use simpler language than usual because he’s probably not as articulate and “smart” about feelings as he is in other ways.
•Talk him through what it means and what to do if someone is hurt – tell him “Jenny has fallen over, that must hurt, look she’s crying, it’s OK now her mum is coming to look after her”.
•Reward and praise even the most half-baked signs of empathy, generosity or kindness, and “name” them too. “You let DS2 have a go with your toy, that was a kind thing to do, look how happy he is”.

With his friend, don’t overdo the consequences on your DS, and try to do small interventions at the time not big consequences later on, especially not at bedtime because if he is very routine bound it may make him worse. Instead, give sympathy to his friend if possible; if your DS is teasing tell him “that’s unkind” and separate the boys for a short time if he wont stop; put your DS in time out (or end the play date) if he is physically hurting his friend. It might help if you put more structure on the play dates, e.g. get them to play a turn-taking game, so your DS has something else to think about than winding up his friend.

Those things should gradually help him along the way, whether he has some form of autism or not (my DS does and these things helped him, but they're not just for autism) This is not your failure, some kids do take longer to develop empathy than others. flowers

Happy36 Sat 19-Jul-14 01:42:14

My friend´s daughter had a similar thing which we started to notice when she was 4.5/5. She is now 8 and seems to have developed excellent empathy as expected of any child of her age.

Like a previous poster has said we congratulated her warmly whenever she did show any empathy, however mild.

However what has really helped her is reading. She was quite slow to start reading but now that she reads and is read to by parents and in class, etc., she has really developed the ability to empathise. Talking about characters in books and encouraging children to ask questions like, "Were they frightened?" "Were they angry?" can be really useful. Also many children´s books have illustrations so get your grandson looking at those and wondering how the characters feel or why they are doing whatever they´re doing in the picture.

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