The pandemic has allowed us to have evening walks. We get to meet our neighbors.
The other day one of the neighbor children fell and was crying. Fleur was most distressed about the other child being in pain. It took quite a bit of reassurance and the other child no longer crying to pull Fleur on her way.
Humans are social creatures. We attend to even the distress of a stranger. It bodes well Fleur was distressed. Right about now is when we should be seeing signs of autism.
Autism more has issues with shallow empathy or reading the emotions on another’s face or tone. Once they cross the bridge keeping from the shallow empathy, they are able to feel deep empathy. This deep empathy is the ability to feel the emotions of others, a merging of identities.
We are starting to see the tantrum behaviors manifest. As she has more autonomy through self-movement and develops preferences, sometimes we run into conflicts over wants. At present, these tantrums make me laugh because mainly they manifest as a little shuffle of her feet and the upset face. Occasionally Fleur lays down on the floor. Limited throwing, hitting, kicking, and screaming so far.
This Lifehacker article: Help Kids Calm Down With a ‘Brain Game’ looks interesting.
- Get their attention: They are consumed by their emotions, so it may be required to use a strange stimulus like a Light Switch Rave , jumping up and down, or making a silly noise.
- Offer: Whisper… “Hey, do you want to play a little game really quick? It will be fun.”
- The Game: “Can you point out <number> things that are <property>?” Do a few of these until has a big smile.
- Explain what you intended that caused the meltdown. (Build empathy.)
Essentially, the amygdala reacted. They won’t have a fully developed pre-frontal cortex to properly manage the amygdala until their 20s. So, need to help them interrupt the amygdala by leveraging to hippocampus and memory cortex to distract the amygdala long enough for us to explain.
 That was a Strong Bad email #45 from Homestarr Runner reference.
Turns out, kindness is complicated. We’re born with the wiring for both kindness and cruelty, so altruism is not inevitable. It’s a skill and a habit that we have the power — and responsibility — to foster, one good deed at a time.
I love the concept of mirror neurons. When watching someone else do something, the parts of our brain for doing that activity light up as though we are doing it. One of the reasons why I enjoy watching sports that I have played, especially the players of positions, is because I feel it when they make a play. They also have a dark side, in that when others experience pain, our brain experiences it as well.
My first experience with seeing early empathetic distress was in helping my aunt babysit twins. When one would cry, the other hearing the cry would also start to cry. Nothing was wrong. At the time, we chalked it up to attention seeking, but I bet really it was empathetic distress. Hearing the the cry bad made the other feel bad and crying was the way to express it.
Kindness is not just about feeling bad about another’s distress, but doing something to resolve it. Fleur likes to take my glasses. Unfortunately, I have turned it into a kind of game. Lately, I have had to shift my reaction to expressing sadness about it. She is much faster about giving them back when I do. Wonder if that would work for the throwing food thing?