At what point do we develop empathy? The twins definitely seem aware of the emotions around them. If you smile at them they smile back. If you’re upset they’re upset. And if one of them cries, the other inevitably cries.
But at what point can they put themselves in another person’s place? That is surely a more advanced skill, but one I feel the need to lay the groundwork for already.
What I’m thinking of especially is sharing. This is not a concept they get. What they do understand is that the toy their sister is playing with is by far the most interesting toy in the room.
M is now scooting and rolling around so that she can get where she wants to go, whereas Bean is still relatively content sitting and playing with toys nearby. M has been rolling over to where Bean is sitting and stealing whatever toy she’s playing with, then rolling away again. Bean immediately screams in outrage.
If I see it happen I restore the toy to the original twin. But if I hear that telltale cry when I’m in the other room, there’s no way for me to enforce what’s right.
Last month when we had a play date with some younger babies I found myself getting self-conscious about my parenting, as my babies systematically stole all the toys from the younger two. “No, that’s their toy!” I kept repeating. “They were playing with that. You already have a toy.”
I know this is only the beginning of the discipline road. It isn’t really even discipline yet, just explanation and moving toys back and forth. Still it’s interesting. Whenever one of them steals a toy from the other they look very pleased with themselves, grasping the desired object as the other screams in outrage. But they also look a bit mischievous, as if they suspect this might be wrong and they wonder what will happen next. Am I projecting?