Via: The Daily Good
-by Mary Gordon, Greater Good, Jan 26, 2013
For years I worked with families who were very abusive to their children. Over time, I came to realize that all of the suffering that the children collected—whether it was domestic violence or child abuse or neglect—was a result of the absence of empathy in the parent.
There wasn’t one of those parents who woke up and decided, “Today is the day I’m going to hurt my child.” These were not monsters; these were people who I loved, actually.
I remember working with a group of teenage mothers who had all lived through sexual or physical abuse as children and were now struggling with addiction. They had great difficulty empathizing with their children. When the children would fall down, the mothers would say, “No pain, no gain.” And this could be a little toddler learning how to walk.
I saw that if you haven’t experienced love, it’s very difficult to know how to love.
So what can we do to break this cycle of abuse and neglect?
My idea was to focus on the attachment relationship between parent and child. I believe that we inherit the capacity for empathy—that we are all intuitively empathic—but this capacity can wither on the vine if a child never experiences empathy in the attachment relationship with his or her parents. So why not learn from the attachment relationship?
That idea motivated me to launch Roots of Empathy in 1996. Roots of Empathy is a classroom-based program for children in kindergarten through grade eight. Our mission is to build more caring, peaceful, and civil societies by raising levels of empathy in children.
Read more: here