Warmer Parenting Makes Antisocial Toddlers More Empathetic

Pacific Standard:

When parents act warmly and responsively toward young children who exhibit antisocial behavior, the children begin acting more warmly too.

That’s according to a new study in the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, in which researchers examined whether there are differences in response to parental harshness and warmth among three-year-olds who exhibit “callously unemotional” behavior.

To parents of little ones, this outcome might seem obvious, but the study’s results contradicted the prevailing thinking on the matter. Until now, it has been widely believed that children whose behavior problems include high levels of “callous-unemotional” behavior, characterized by a “lack of empathic concern, punishment insensitivity, and lack of emotional responsivity,” are that way regardless of parenting style. Now, however, there’s evidence that colder parenting may worsen this type of behavior, while warmer parenting might coax out a child’s empathy.

Read the whole story: Pacific Standard

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The reason that warm responses make young children more social is that imitation has been proven to be the most powerful engine of learning in childhood. It really is “Do as I do” and not “Do as I say.” So when we are warm and understanding to our children they imitate us and are warmer and more compassionate to others. For a parenting book based on this positive philosophy, see Smart Love: The Comprehensive Guide to Understanding, Regulating, and Enjoying Your Child.

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