Empathy in Preschoolers


There seems to be a common set of core values that most parents want to instill in their children: kindness and empathy. The best way to teach these values is by demonstrating them. When young children reveal these attributes, parents are proud not only of their kids, but of themselves. Children treat others the way they are treated.


By age three, children are just beginning to think of the feelings of others. If nurtured, they can be quite nurturing themselves.

The Story of Todd and His Grandma

 Three-year-old Todd was getting ready to watch the movie, ”Frozen,” with his five-year-old brother and grandmother. He single-handedly pushed the small settee in front of the large computer screen Then this busy little guy went and got a big, plush pillow and put it in the middle of the back of the settee.

What was he up to? When it was time for everyone to sit and watch the film, he took Grandma’s hand and had her sit in the middle of the couch between the two boys. Todd had gotten the pillow for grandma to lean against.

To grandma, Todd was kind. He loved her and cared about her comfort.


 Jealousy among Siblings

Parents daydream during the second pregnancy or adoption that their two little ones will be best buddies, but often this daydream turns into a bit of a nightmare. After being an only child, it can be hard to be overjoyed when a little brother comes along who wants to hang around you all the time.

It often happens that the first child resents the second. It’s hard giving up being the center of your parents’ attention. Even the most nurturing kids tend to focus at times not on what they’ve gained – a brother to play with, but on what they’ve lost – being an only child.

The Story Vic and Cole

Four-year-old Vic was a good swimmer when he had his inflatable arm bands on. He would jump in the water on his own even off a diving board. His two-year-old brother, Cole, wanted to be just like him. Whatever Vic did, Cole tried to do, too.  This often annoyed Vic who didn’t always like being followed around.

So, like many older brothers, Vic wasn’t always nice to Cole. He would take toys right out of Cole’s hands if he wanted them. Cole wouldn’t cry, but he also wouldn’t give up. He’d just try and do the next thing that his older brother was up to.

Vic’s and Cole’s parents are visiting with another couple and all the kids are running around the yard. It’s a warm day and the pool is glistening. Cole spies Vic sitting at the pool side with his feet dangling in the water. Cole gets excited and runs swiftly to the pool. Because he’s going so fast, he falls in.

Vic yells, “Cole’s in the deep end!” as he jumps in instantly without his arm bands on. He manages to tread water as he struggles to keep Cole and himself from going under. Their father jumps in immediately and gets them both to the edge. It happened so quickly that neither boy was even crying.

Two-year-old Cole, with his great vocabulary, was up and running chasing after his brother calling Vic with the new name he chose for him, “Victory!” The adults praised Vic and cheered.

Even a jealous older brother knows how to do the loving thing when it really counts!

Talking and Listening to Your Kids at Home