(Empathic Parenting) This Is How Parents Influence Early Moral Development: start by cultivating your own empathy.

Parents: Do you want to raise a child with a strong sense of right and wrong? You might want to start by cultivating your own morality—as well as your own empathy.

Parental dispositions also seemed to impact sharing in the toddlers. The researchers found that higher levels of parental cognitive empathy, or the ability to take someone else’s perspective, as well as higher levels of baby self-regulation—their ability to soothe themselves, for example—predicted increased sharing behavior in the sharing game. While it makes some sense that babies who can self-soothe would be better at sharing—after all, says Decety, sharing is hard for babies, so soothing themselves could mitigate the emotional upset—it’s less clear how parental empathy impacts this behavior. Again, it could be genetic, or socially-influenced, or both.

By Jill Suttie, Psy.D.