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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Empathic Education(from "Empathic Civilization" by Jeremy Rifkin)

    If babies are rarely disciplined in their first year of living, they start being regularly afterward-approximately every 11 minute, between the age of twelve and fifteen months.
Two thirds of parent-infant interactions are disciplinary events where parents try changing kids attitudes against their will. Between the age of two and ten years, parents try to change their kids attitude approximately every 6 to 9 minutes: two wills are at war.

    Introducing a moral  sense into the experience of the child isn't easy.

    The key of transforming natural empathic impulses into mature empathic reaction, is the way we discipline the child.

    It is clear that afflicting a corporal punishment in response to a social transgression will have an opposite effect. Sanction will turn the young human away from future empathy. The best way to bring his/her potential mature empathy to light is to induce it:

"Parents highlight the perspective of the other, show his distress, and point that it's the child's action that brought this distress.'' When induction is done with care and equity, and the child becomes aware that he/she provoked the other distress, it could lead to guilt feeling, to remorse and to sincere effort to repare.

    By dragging attention to the distress of the victim, and by asking the child what would he/she feel in same circumstances, the parent help activating empathy and awakening mechanisms.  The parent can ask the child to look the victim in the eyes for example. Then, the awakening of empathic distress is transformed into guilt feeling, and the need to bring compensation to the victim is felt. The parent suggests a restorative action-ask for forgiveness, kiss the victim or hug her/him-, and the child feels relieved and less guilty.
But the guilt feeling should not be confused with shame.

    These scenarios accumulate in memory and become an integral part of brain function.

    In general, children are initiated to induction scenarios at the age of three.

    Parents are strong 'characters' in a child's life. Their capacity of imposing themselves to their attention, of affirm their will, and also of taking back their affection, make them a formidable force in the life of a tiny human being. But at the same time, if a parent show too much laxity and doesn't give a predictable discipline frame, the child might end up ignoring his will when he/she will put it to practice. On the other hand, if the parent controls everything and affirm his/her power to the point of overwhelming the child, the young person might end up becoming aggressive and choleric, or she/he might stop affective contact.

    What discipline through induction really teach the child, is the substance of human ethics: to assume responsibility of one's actions, sympathize with others, have the will to offer help and comfort, and have a sense of fair-play and justice.

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