Born to help

Artwork by Day Nursery Clarian Center students

A newsletter I just received from the staff at  Child Care Exchange just pointed out a very interesting article in the New York Times titled, We May Be Born With an Urge to Help.”

“Children are altruistic by nature,”writes Dr. Michael Tomasello in his book Why We Cooperate , “and though they are also naturally selfish, all parents need do is try to tip the balance toward social behavior.”  This helping behavior “seems to be innate because it appears so early and before many parents start teaching children the rules of polite behavior.”

As the parent of a ten-year old, one of the most interesting parts of the article for me was this comment about something that had been puzzling me for the last 5 years, for parents who may think their children somehow skipped the cooperative phase, Dr. Tomasello offers the reassuring advice that children are often more cooperative outside the home, which is why parents may be surprised to hear from a teacher or coach how nice their child is. “In families, the competitive element is in ascendancy,” he said.

Dr. Tomasello is a developmental psychologist and  is co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

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