Concerned about ds lack of empathy(5 Posts)
Ds is 3. He is quite boisterous but very affectionate.
He is quite aggressive with his older sister and will often completely lack empathy when he hurts her although he has cried before when he's made her cry.
He bit a child at school and wasn't concerned in the slightest, we made a card together apologising to the little boy but he wasn't really interested.
He quite often lies when he's done something wrong and he says mean things to see if it will upset me.
I'm concerned with his lack of empathy and the other behaviours as he's only 3.
He's otherwise very loving. He kisses and cuddles me constantly, misses his sister when she's at school and shares well.
Does this sound like normal behaviour?
There is a theory which says that children don't even start to develop empathy until the age of four and that it's not fully formed until after the age of seven. If a child is 'showing' empathy before the age of four, they're demonstrating learned behaviours, not actual empathy.
Do an experiment. Hide something in a box, showing your DS what is hidden. Ideally something like a box clearly labelled with a picture of apples, but hide a banana inside. Bring one of his teddies into the room who 'hasn't seen' what was hidden. Ask your DS what teddy thinks is in the box. He'll almost certainly say, 'Teddy thinks a banana is in the box.' rather than understanding that Teddy will 'see' the apples and think that's what the contents of the box is. His inability to see things from teddy's point of view will demonstrate that he has not yet developed empathy.
Thank you Elphaba I will most definitely try that!
Too early for empathy. Its the age when they pull legs off spiders and chop up worms to make soup. It will come with your guidance over time.
He's only 3, and 3 year olds aren't really ready for empathy. Keep encouraging him and don't worry. Do start teaching him to apologise (saying sorry, kissing better etc) the same way you start teaching pleases and thank yous - they aren't always sincere but they're good habits to build on and the sincerity comes later.
Lying when he's done wrong is actually a good sign(!) for his age. It means he already "knows" that you see the world one way and he sees it another way, and that he can affect how you see it by what he says. And that is good because it means that later on he wont be blurting out "you look ugly". Young kids tend to blurt these things out but most older kids understand about hurt feelings and about not saying something just because it's "true".
My DS has autism and was still showing lack of empathy when he was much older. He developed empathy later than most kids, and he sometimes has to use logic about what to say and do where other people would respond instinctively. He learned to lie much later than other kids too. Your DS sounds to be right on target for his age.
If you know your DS has done something wrong then don't ask him to admit it. Little kids are still fuzzy about the difference between fantasy and reality, and between what happened and what they wish had happened anyway. So you can just say "I know you broke the plate, now help me sweep up the pieces" or "you hit your sister, that's a time out and say sorry" or whatever.
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