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You know all these recent concerns about people being nasty to babies.... I think I've seen the antidote

(12 Posts)
welliemum Fri 28-Sep-07 04:50:50

I'm so impressed with the Roots of Empathy programme described here.

Essentially, it's about teaching children empathy and related skills to enable them to be better parents in future. They learn this by getting to know a baby and following that baby's development over a year.

These people could teach "some other people" a lesson or 2 about what babies need.

"Students learn about the importance of the attachment and attunement of the infant to his/her primary care giver that forms a template for every subsequent relationship in life. "

and

"They learn it is through experiences, delivered through senses that the baby?s brain grows. If these experiences are delivered through the lens of a loving relationship, the baby?s brain will grow in a healthy and vigorous manner. ?Love Grows Brains!? "

"Love Grows Brains" is a bit bleurgh, but... true enough.

Do you think Channel 4 would be interested? Nope, thought not.

welliemum Fri 28-Sep-07 11:09:50

Oh, please someone have some empathy and at least feign interest in this lovely website grin

Niecie Fri 28-Sep-07 11:29:54

It does look very interesting welliemum. How did you hear about it as the contact page says they are in Canada.

Having said that it does sound a bit like a practical psychology for beginners course. It would be lovely if children of all ages could find the time to do it but it is quite a long course so I don't suppose schools will be taking it up. Come to that there are a few adults who should do it to!

I doubt Channel 4 would take it up as empathy is very difficult to measure. It wouldn't make good telly because of that. Not like saying - this baby now sleeps through the night, eats anything you want it to etc, this child is well behaved or has good table manners. It is difficult show empathy because it is about the way a child thinks.

Would be interesting to see what effect it would have on children with AS or similar social communication disorders? I wonder how they would be affected by the course.

welliemum Fri 28-Sep-07 11:45:01

Niecie, I read about it on the local (NZ) news and went to look it up. They're introducing it into NZ schools because there's such a high rate of child abuse here - nobody knows why, exactly, but everyone is saying that Something Must Be Done.

This programme is the most sensible, practical approach I've seen so far, though of course it'll take years to have any effect on child abuse figures.

But I love the idea of a classful of children watching a baby grow and develop, and thinking about that baby as an individual, and so on.

I suspect children with AS-type SN might struggle with this sort of thing - but am happy to be corrected.

Agree, though, it wouldn't make rivetting car-crash TV. Sigh.

Niecie Fri 28-Sep-07 12:07:31

I mention the AS thing as I think they would struggle too but at the same time would benefit greatly from somebody teaching empathy. It isn't something taught in schools and to be fair a lot of children probably don't need it but AS children do (before being shot down in flames not all but a lot of them).

Do the NZ gov't think that empathy is the missing link that would break the cycle of the abused becoming abusers? They may well be right but I hadn't really thought of it in terms of one missing thing.

As you say it is a long term project but it would be interesting to see how it pans out. I wonder if it would have an effect on the levels of bullying in schools first. I suppose it depends if it ends up teaching empathy for small children and babies or whether it teachs empathy for everybody, iyswim.

welliemum Fri 28-Sep-07 12:15:33

I think bullying is one of the specific targets for the programme, and so is teenage pregnancy. They seem to use empathy as a starting point for all sorts of other ideas.

I don't think the NZ govt sees this as the one solution to child abuse - there seem to be a lot of initiatives on the go at the moment, each with its own focus.

But I'm really interested in this one exactly because of the aspect you mentioned, ie breaking the cycle.

I liked this bit (also from the website):
"One student, realizing the importance of a secure attachment for a good start in life, asked, “Is it still possible to be a good parent, even if no one has ever loved you?” Roots of Empathy strives to make sure that it is always possible to become a good parent."

Niecie Fri 28-Sep-07 12:49:21

Is the abuse a part of one section of society or across the board? I notice it mentions the Aboriginals in the website. Is it a particular problem with the native populations of NZ and Australia? Sorry if that isn't a very PC thing to ask.

What else are they doing? I am trying to think of things but the only thing I can think of would be to have on-going parenting classes which teach people how to interact with their children but I think there would be a lot of opposition to something like that for adults.

I think it is very sad that a child would doubt their ability to love because they themselves have never been loved. It would never occur to me that I would not love my children. I have had plenty of doubts about being a good parent, as I think we all do (don't wehmm) but something so instinctive as loving them was never in doubt. It is so sad that life has damaged these children so much.

I hope the course works out and makes a difference. The website says it starts in kindergarten and goes up to 8th grade but what ages does that cover for you in NZ?

welliemum Fri 28-Sep-07 13:36:22

Niecie, it's a good question. The incidence of child abuse is highest amongst families of Maori and Pacific descent. As I mentioned, no-one knows why, although socio-economic factors are known to be important; children in the poorest families seem to be most at risk.

Regardless of the reasons, all sectors of the population are keen to address this.

Some other measures include reforming the NZ equivalent of social services, increasing routine visits to families with newborns, and (very controversial) making smacking illegal. Most of these are aimed at damage limitation really, rather than enabling people to be good parents.

It should work with NZ school system - they start school at 5 here, but the programme seems to be quite flexible.

Agree with you that it's awful some children haven't experienced being loved.

Sorry, getting a bit terse here - it's late and I'm falling asleep! Going to bed now - Thanks for the conversation!

Niecie Fri 28-Sep-07 14:37:00

Thanks Welliemum, I feel I have learnt something today! smile

welliemum Sun 30-Sep-07 20:30:11

bump cos I still think it's fab!

edam Sun 30-Sep-07 20:38:37

It's just a guess but I imagine European (largely British) outsiders taking over the country and disrupting/destroying the traditional Maori way of life probably has something to do with it. Legacy of fractured relationships down the generations, and all that. Were Maoris treated as badly as Aborigines in Australia? Terribly sad.

I've heard it argued that slavery is responsible for the trend in the UK for black men to have babies with lots of different mothers and not settle down as fathers. Not sure about that as the Windrush generation were largely very conventional in terms of family structure.

welliemum Sun 30-Sep-07 20:44:51

I agree Edam. Maori weren't treated quite as badly as Australian Aborigines but even so, there was huge disruption to communities and family support systems, right up to modern times.

I imagine it will take a long time - generations - to undo that damage. sad angry

The Roots of Empathy programme looks like a lovely and (importantly) effective way to address this.

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