My family has stated repeatedly what a good, kind, and sweet personality my two-year-old has on a regular basis.
(I’ll go ahead and pat myself on the back while knocking on wood right now.)
I could spout off about how we are PARENTS OF THE YEAR! with TODDLER OF THE YEAR! and make everyone else feel miserable to my superior parenting skills, but I have to be honest -- I do not think it is us that has made Harrison this way.
Babies and toddlers are notoriously selfish creatures: we nurture, they take. And we’re always told that our little ones believe they are the center of the universe and can’t put themselves in another’s shoes — they have no sense of empathy, and it takes them years to become fair-minded, generous little people. ~Heather Turgeon, Hardwired to Give
I do not see anything different that my husband and I do parenting-wise that my friends do with their toddlers. True, in our family “please” and “thank you” are of high importance. My kid cannot say that dog’s name, but “thank you” was one of his first five words. At birthday parties, I am always pleased to see my kid share his toys or attempt to be fair. It is fair to say that he does not always LIKE sharing his toys, like how his grandaddy was pushing another little girl on the swing at his birthday party, so Harrison went and sat in the corner crying.
Like I said, we are still baffled that nobody has been clocked upside the head by a Lightning McQueen figurine at a play date.
We always mention that our son is sensitive and highly-tuned to emotion – he has always been that way, since he was an infant and that personality trait has carried into toddlerhood.
A recent study from the Max Planck Institute has challenged this idea, suggesting that toddlers as young as 15 months do indeed show a sense of both fairness (an interest in treating people equally), and also altruism (a desire to help or please people). Or rather, some toddlers do. It turns out that young children differ in how giving, and how sensitive to the equal treatment of others they are. ~Heather Turgeon
Interesting. So it really could be Harrison’s personality rather than our parenting!
And the most intriguing part is that some toddlers seem much more empathetic than others. It could be that they’re born this way — wired more sensitively to the emotions of others and also more generous to go along with it. Or, at the budding age of just 15 months, their environment: how they see their parents, siblings, and the people in the rest of their little worlds interacting, has already shaped their expectations and their inclination to give freely.
My suspicion is that it’s both. Empathy may take years to emerge, but we all know adults who still don’t seem to be very good at it. Just like any other personality trait, it’s most likely the result of biology mixed with upbringing. And there’s no reason to think that we wouldn’t see that special mix coming out in the actions and manners of even our youngest little companions. ~Heather Turgeon
I’m with you, Heather.
For more detail on the subject and studies, please check out Heather’s post, Hardwired to Give.