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4 yr olds unkind behaviour

(104 Posts)
Granarchist Mon 02-Nov-15 14:09:35

DD is worried about her (just) 4yr old's lack of empathy with other children.
He caused an accident to another child by driving his bike at the other child, and even when it was obvious by the amount of blood that it could have been serious - he carried on and had to be forcibly removed from the bike. He showed no concern whatever and although he repeatedly said sorry on the way home, it was obvious that that was because he knew he was in trouble, rather than really being sorry. Is he too young to have empathy with others and to realise the serious nature of what he did and the sheer unkindness of not caring? It is not the first time he has behaved like this and DD is really worried.

rosesarered Mon 02-Nov-15 14:15:38

Yes, he is too young to have empathy , especially for somebody outside his family circle. don't worry about it, children this age just parrot the word sorry. adults show by example what is right and wrong, so tell him that it's wrong to hurt another child and leave it at that.If he keeps doing it, then sterner measures have to apply.

Luckygirl Mon 02-Nov-15 14:27:39

Interesting quote off the internet:

"The capacity to truly understand what is going on in somebody else's heart and mind doesn't develop until a child is six or seven, but youngsters do have the emotional – rather than cognitive -- ability to pick up on another child's feelings and match them with their own"

The incident you describe has been part of the learning process and of the development of empathy. A lot of what passes for empathy in small children is probably more an awareness that they will be in the mire of they do something, before they understand why it is wrong.

I am sure that you will all be keeping an eye on how he progresses with this bit of learning and helping him to grasp it and internalise it.

Granarchist Mon 02-Nov-15 14:34:10

That's pretty much what I told DD - she is anxious not to have a raging psychopath on her hands!!! Interestingly I took 3 yr old DGD out today (lives much closer so I see her almost daily) and asked her what she would do if someone got hurt and unprompted she said she would ask if they were all right and go and get her nursery teacher - so maybe its encouraging and educating that works at this age.

Luckygirl Mon 02-Nov-15 14:43:11

Do boys develop this later I wonder? Sorry if that sounds sexist! - perhaps mums of boys on here might have some observations - I only had girls.

rosesarered Mon 02-Nov-15 14:45:46

Yes, boys are different ( my boy was different to my girls anyway) girls may not have the empathy any earlier, but are quicker to cotton on to what is socially more acceptable.

vampirequeen Mon 02-Nov-15 15:03:40

He was probably so intent on riding the bike and the game he was playing that he didn't register the seriousness of what he'd done. The series of apologies were because he will have learned by now that the word 'sorry' seems to solve a variety of problems even if he doesn't understand why.

Greenfinch Mon 02-Nov-15 15:05:24

The SecretLife Of 4 Year Olds tomorrow night on Channel 4 may be of some interest.I seem. to remember from the earlier programme that some children were really quite nasty to others.

TriciaF Mon 02-Nov-15 15:12:32

In general girls acquire language quicker than boys - obviously there are exceptions.
Perhaps it follows that they are earlier to be able to understand when it's explained to them about the feelings of others.
Luckygirl - I would think even 6 or 7 is too young for many children.
They accept that a behaviour is either good or not good (ie punishable) but don't understand why until later.
I know plenty of adults who say you shouldn't do so and so because you might get caught. Some never develop empathy.

hildajenniJ Mon 02-Nov-15 15:27:51

By the age of about 6 to 7 a child develops true empathy. Before that age, they may look like they are empathising, when really they are just picking up on and mimicking the emotions of the other child. All children develop at their own rate, and at 4 years old I wouldn't be too worried. If he still lacks empathy at 7, then I think it would be time to worry.

Granarchist Mon 02-Nov-15 18:01:34

That is all so helpful! I'll tell her to watch the programme! I'm sure we just have to emphasise that some behaviour is not acceptable and wait for the magic day when they understand why!

merlotgran Mon 02-Nov-15 18:11:13

I would be attempting to deal with his behaviour*now*. Sorry to disagree with everyone else but you say it's not the first time it's happened and this time there was an 'amount of blood'

I wouldn't be waiting until he is seven because if he carries on hurting other children he won't have any friends as they'll all be avoiding him.

jinglbellsfrocks Mon 02-Nov-15 18:20:38

They don't need empathy to see that the other child is hurt. It should be obvious, even to a four year old. Especially when blood is flowing. Was the other child crying? That should have clinched it for the offender.

He needs talking to.

jinglbellsfrocks Mon 02-Nov-15 18:21:56

I think 'instinct' should come into play, rather than 'empathy'. hmm

rosequartz Mon 02-Nov-15 18:25:42

I do think girls have more of an awareness and empathy of other people's feelings and whether or not they are hurt than boys of a similar age.

I must remember to record that programme tonight!

rosequartz Mon 02-Nov-15 18:27:43

he repeatedly said sorry on the way home
He does have to learn that his behaviour is not acceptable, though, and say sorry to the little girl rather than to his mother who was not the one hurt, but who is the one to explain to him that it is wrong.

FarNorth Mon 02-Nov-15 18:29:16

I hope the TV programme is helpful, Granarchist.
I agree that he should have it explained to him that hurting other children is wrong and that he should try not to do it.
I don't think it matters if he can empathise or not, at the moment, as long as it is made clear to him how to behave.

Ana Mon 02-Nov-15 18:57:31

It's on tomorrow night, rosequartz. I watched the first series, it was absolutely fascinating.

I remember some on here thought it was too manipulative in that there obviously had to be some set-ups, but it still gave a wonderful bird's eye view of how children that age learn to deal with social situations with which they may not have been familiar.

vampirequeen Mon 02-Nov-15 18:58:47

I didn't mean that he should be allowed to hurt other people without facing consequences but I'm not certain he has the ability to empathise. He's four years old and still mainly egocentric. That's not unusual for a child of his age. I'm sure he was aware he'd hurt the other child but from his egocentric viewpoint it wouldn't have any effect on his game.

We learn what is and isn't acceptable behaviour and the social niceties long before we empathise with others because we quickly discover that we face negative consequences if we behave inappropriately.

rosequartz Mon 02-Nov-15 19:48:28

Yes, just realised that Ana, thanks, so I have set it to record.

Anya Mon 02-Nov-15 20:28:32

Spot on jingl it should be obvious to a 4-year old that he has hurt another child. This isn't sbout empathy it's about physical hurt.

When GS3 was a four-year old and hurt anther boy he was told off severely. When he did it again the following day he was yelled at, by me, until he cried. This was quite deliberate - he developed 'empathy' soon after that!

merlotgran Mon 02-Nov-15 20:41:04

If a four year old is old enough to ride a bike, he's old enough to know that deliberately driving it at another child is jolly well going to hurt.

As for having to be forcibly removed....I'm afraid in our house that bike would be locked in the garage until some better behaviour could be relied upon.

vampirequeen Mon 02-Nov-15 21:28:50

I doubt he developed empathy, Anya. He simply didn't like the consequences and modified his behaviour accordingly.

JamJar1 Mon 02-Nov-15 21:35:52

Just to agree with merlotgran and others here. I have a GS and a GD and have not experienced such differences as some have mentioned here between the two. Surely the fact this little boy was saying sorry repeatedly shows he was trying to lessen any impact on his bike riding and he himself knew it wasn't acceptable behaviour? IMHO.

Anya Mon 02-Nov-15 22:18:22

That was why my 'empathy' was written as it was VQ

Yes, he modified his behaviour, that was the whole point of the exercise. He had a chance to modify it the first time he trangressed, so something more forceful was called for.

He still remembers the one and only occasion that 'nana got mad' - it hasn't damaged him psychologically either.

Too many excuses these days for unacceptable behaviour.