Wednesday, November 24, 2010
As the babies and toddlers, children envision themselves squarely at the center of the universe and understand their own needs only. This so called egocentric viewpoint is not deliberately selfish, but simply results of their inability at this stage to comprehend that other people have independent existences and feelings of their own. Watch a pair of two years olds playing in a sand box: They seem hardly aware of each other’s presence, until one decides suddenly she must have the pail and shovel her friends is holding, and snatches it away as though the other child were not there. The victim, surrendering the toys in wordless surprise, runs waling to her mother for solace as her companion plays on unperturbed.
But then observe the same two fiends after two years’ passing. Chances are they will be working together on a sand castle, playing and chatting away so peaceably that their mothers feel no need for supervision at all. What has happened in the interim is a watershed development that experts have identified as the first stirrings of empathy: a widening of the child’s self absorbed viewpoint into a broader understanding of other people and their feelings. The growth of empathy between the third and fifth years, coupled with an increasing ability to detect and follow society’s unwritten rules, will be the key to your child’s social adjustment for the rest of her life.