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To be worried about 5 year old's empathy?(185 Posts)
DD is 5.5 and I'm being driven crazy by her complete lack of empathy.
She bites her younger brother constantly and when we do the "look what you have done, this hurt DS" all I get back is a blank "well he made me mad".
She attacked me badly on Tuesday and I showed her the marks. Her response " I was itchy"
I have been unwell all weekend, DS has been giving me blankets etc and understanding when I have said mummy can't do x because I'm poorly. DD is just kicking off over everything. When I explain that mummy really isn't feeling well there's literally nothing there. She absolutely does not care and it has been meltdown after meltdown.
I don't know how to get her to get it but I'm getting so frustrated
I know kids don't develop empathy until 6 or 7 but Aibu to think she should have more than she has? DS is a young 4 and he seems to be able to grasp it.
Start letting her deal with the consequences of her actions? Like sending her to the naughty step, removing privileges, etc?
She doesn't grasp consequences being linked to her behaviour. There's always consequences but she just sees it as me being horrible and no matter how it is explained or done she doesn't get that it was her behaviour that lead to the consequence not mum just being horrid
It seems very odd that a 5.5yo would be biting so often.
Have you tried consistent consequences?
When she does something like this, ask her 'how would you feel if this happened to you?'. Although when I say that to my 5YO, he usually comes out with a sarcastic reply of happy! My kids do tend to lash out when they get frustrated with something, not getting their own way etc. Eldest probably has some form of ASD, we are just starting the diagnosis process now. But I wouldn't say it was anyway near constant. And he is capable of understanding and caring when someone is sick, hurt etc.
How is her behaviour in general if she's biting her brother constantly? It sounds more like a general issue with behaviour, discipline and wanting attention rather than a lack of empathy.
Has she ever shown empathy to anyone?
She's never shown empathy. She doesn't answer when I ask her that because I've tried that before "how would you feel if I or DS did this to you". The only thing she sorts of gets is when someone is literally bleeding and she will avoid them/the injury like the plague. She has had me and DS in tears before and there's just nothing there from DD.
Consequences are always consistent
You've described my 6 year old ds. The only thing that sort of works with him to get him to think about his actions is removing his ipad. I've never known him to show concern or anything when one of us is hurt or ill.
I'd look for help with this. The sooner she's helped, the better. It must be very distressing for you and the others in your family.
Id talk to the gp about it tbh, and dont let them brush it off either.
She never said the iPad was causing the problem, just that she removes access when her son misbehaves.
Try ignoring her bad behaviour and giving your DS more positive attention when he shows empathy. If she hurts him, ignore her and give all your attention to him.
Try talking to her, maybe while reading a story or watching tv, about how certain actions make characters feel. See if she can understand the feelings of others while her own emotions are calm. Maybe try acting out a few scenarios with her toys and getting her to talk about how the toy might feel. This will give you an idea of her understanding of emotions. If she has a good understanding then you can go down the consequences route. If she finds this difficult then you need to work on it in a different way, and speak to her teacher when that is possible.
I would get a professional opinion. Whether she has a neurological problem or an emotional one this doesn't sound healthy or normal.
I do logical/natural consequences usually in the form of whatever we were doing beforehand immediately ending and she has to go to her room whilst I comfort DS or sort my own injury out. There is no way she would manage to connect a consequence such as device removal or naughty step to her biting, her brain just doesn't seem to work like that and it's at the point of unbelievably frustrating.
Very concerning behaviour for a child of her age. I suggest you make an appointment with your GP asap, they can refer you on. In the meantime go over the top modelling empathy at every opportunity. Use stories, TV programmes, real Iife situations etc to show empathy. 'Oh dear, John lost his keys, he must be worried' etc. You could also try role playing situations using teddy's or dolls or even yourself. Pretend there's a car crash, dolly has been run over etc etc and you come across the scene. Get your other child to join in, administering First Aid etc.
No doubt I'll be flamed for this, but the constant meltdowns, and the fact that she attacked you because she felt itchy, make me wonder if there is something else going on. My daughter has ASD, and can appear to be lacking in empathy, but can actually be incredibly empathic. She has difficult in linking events however - so, wouldn't see the cause and effect in "you did this and it hurt me", plus finds it hard to imagine herself in situations that she hasn't previously experienced (maybe look up "theory of mind"). Might be worth just looking at some of the characteristics of ASD in girls, and seeing if any of it fits.
However, emotional development can also be later than expected, and I think this is always more noticeable in girls than boys, because we expect girls to be more empathic and sensitive (not saying that they are, just that society expects it). So, it could also just be that her emotional development isn't quite there yet. Hope you feel better soon - being ill with small children is no fun at all!
You don't need to worry about empathy until 8.
They don't start to cognitively understand empathy until 6 or 7.
Under 6 they're just mirroring.
@Devonmum2020 I'd get help from professionals and don't let them brush you off. My first dc was like this but no nine believed me, they're now getting diagnosed but am adult snd it's been a really hard road. Early intervention will help no matter what the issue is. I wish you well, it's very hard to deal with.
I'm another who would be very concerned. I would have her evaluated asap.
Do you really believe that, @LaurieFairyCake?
The no empathy until older is what professionals have always said to me and I've been accepting that but 18 months younger DS does get it and I don't understand how he does and yet there's just nothing there with DD
How does she act towards animals and insects, in real life and on the TV? I had a few moments where I wondered about DD 5 and her empathy, but she can't bear to see a lion kill a deer on a nature programme, or for me to hoover up a spider for example!
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