Compassion and Empathy in Children

Eliza Grace was born on March 15, 2006, at 26 weeks, 4 days, weighing 1 pound 4 ounces and measuring just 11.5 inches long. She is the light of my soul and this is a story of our life in the big city.

Compassion and empathy may not win your kid an Olympic medal or a seat on the NYSE, but it sure does make for easy parenting.

I don’t know if compassion and empathy are genetic qualities or things that are learned.  But I am glad that Eliza has these qualities in abundance.  I posted on Facebook about Eliza’s recent thoughts about her mason jar.  As a reward for Eliza eating, she gets quarters.  Yes I know this is probably not the best feeding “protocol” but it works, so too bad for those in the feeding therapy community who disapprove.  Any port in a storm is my theory.

Eliza gets 5 quarters for each real meal she eats (she is a cheap date).  I keep the quarters in a large mason jar and then give them to her to put in her smaller mason jar. When her jar is full she can use half of her quarters to buy a game or a toy and the other half go in her savings account (she takes great delight in handing the teller a bag of quarters and filling out the deposit slip).  A few days ago she asked why the big jar (my jar) was empty.  I told her that I had given my quarters to her because she had done such a great job eating her eggs.  She was very concerned that there were no quarters for me to get a treat for myself, so put back some of her quarters into the bigger jar so I could get a treat.  Yes, I cried.

Then yesterday we were having our nightly bedtime conversation.  Before she goes to sleep each night, she often asks pretty complex questions about life, people in her life, what they are doing, how they are, where they are, etc.  She had asked me to stay in bed with her and I told her I had some work to do but would come back to bed soon.  Eliza asked why I had to work and I told her that mommy needed to work so we could have a good home, visit Saba and have quarters in our jars to get treats.  She got very quiet and clearly was pondering this theory.

After a few minutes, Eliza said she had a solution that would allow me not to work.  She said she had a really, really big heart and that within her heart were twenty smaller hearts.  She would give away ten of her smaller hearts so that I could stay home with her and not have to work.  I asked her how she could give away so many of her hearts and she assured me that since she would have ten hearts left, that was more than enough to make one big heart.  I cried again.

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all would be willing to give away some of our hearts to make life better for someone else?

I hope Eliza never forgets that sharing her heart is one of the best things she can do in life.

Anne Richter


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