We would like that our children develop their talents. Meanwhile we forget the power of love and empathy. And so at the bottom (in fact), everything began at home.

Power of empathy

We can define the empathy so: «Empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s condition from their perspective. You place yourself in their shoes and feel what they are feeling. Empathy is known to increase prosocial (helping) behaviors. »[1]2

Studies showed that the empathy of teachers favored the success of students. Indeed, a large-scale study led by three Finnish universities was realized since 2006 to 2016. This study focused on the interactions between students and their professors, as well as the cooperation between parents and teachers. Let us note that Finland has the school system with the best results within the framework of the program Pisa of the OECD.

The results of this study showed that the empathy of teacher acts favorably on the motivation and the student’s skills, as well in reading, writing or arithmetic. On the contrary, a weak emotional support entails passive behavior and avoidance. The interaction between the teacher and the pupil has a bigger influence on the school results than the educational tools or the size of the classes. This interaction plays an important role in the mechanisms which lead a child to trust his capacities and to set goals.

Power of love

It all starts at home …Through my numerous journeys and discussions, the emotional support of the parents often returned as a key element of the success.

During the last thirty years, we demonstrated that the essential need for the young child is to establish a stable and reassuring link with a maternal figure. The latter meets his/her needs and this feeling of safety allows the child to explore the environment. The British psychologist John Bowlby spoke about attachment to describe the particular link uniting the child with the maternal figure.

From the early childhood, the child is going to develop a model of particular attachment according to the attitude of the maternal figure towards him/her. Bowlby aspires that this link of attachment would be of use afterward as model to all the intimate and social relations of the individual.




Socialization issues

For Rutter on 1979 (see Steinhauer, on 1996), the failure to form a selective link during the first childhood engender a whole series of future inadequate social behavior. For him, this handicap which cannot be later completely overcome if the child is placed in a more favorable environment.

According to Steinhauer (1996 ), a child who would not have developed before two years his capacity of attachment will keep grave social and cognitive aftereffects.

Loeber (on 1991, see Holland and al., on 1993) asserted the existence of critical period during childhood, in the course of which the learning of social skills takes place. He recovers that situations of privation during this period prefigure later antisocial behavior.

From 1954, Bowlby found the links between the prolonged premature separations and the aggressive behavior and the crime.

In 1969, he noticed from studies led on diverse psychiatric samples, the link between two psychiatric syndromes (the psychopathic personality and depression) accompanied with two sorts of symptoms (the persistent crime and the propensity in the suicide) and with frequent breaks of emotional links during the childhood.

Goldberg (1990) realized research about babies at risk and highlights that the infants presenting a reassuring link were more competent intellectually and socially than those whose attachment was anxious and disrupted (according to follow-ups up to the age of eight years).


Neurophysiological issues

Dr Meaney (1997) demonstrated that the growth and the normal development of the baby-rat do not depend only on the food and on the heat, but also on the touch got from his guards. The babies-monkeys and the babies-rats deprived of maternal care, begin to present greater levels of hormones of stress (glucocorticoïdes). These hormones are then in too big quantity. They inhibit the growth and reduce the capacity of neurons to form new connections. In the long term, it has repercussions on the emotional and intellectual functioning of the animal.

An intergenerational transmission of the patterns of attachment

The patterns of attachment of the early childhood echoes throughout the life cycle but also tend to be passed on in the following generation.

The investigations (see Zeanah, on 1996) showed that the type of attachment noted at a parent in the course of the pregnancy predicts in a significant way the pattern of attachment of the baby beyond the age of one year.

The study of Fonagy and al. (1996) put in link the type of attachment of the mother and the father during the last quarter of pregnancy and that of the child such as measured by the “strange situation» in twelve months with the mother and in eighteen months with the father. When the mother is worried, about three quarters of the children, after the brief episode of separation, answer their mother in an inconsolable way. While 80 % of children of autonomous mothers answer, on the way back, by a notable decrease of anxiety. The results with the fathers turn out less convincing, but statistically significant.

Positive parenting solutions

Resilience is a combination of capacities and positive attributes acquired because of experiences and of relations. These attributes help solving problems, to overcome the difficulties and to overcome disappointments.

The parents can help their children to develop resilience by various actions:

  • Have solid bonds and maintain a good communication with them. Take advantage of all the opportunities to get closer to them – during the meals or by car, by watching TV with them or by making household chores. Speak to the children of their works and their school activities, help them to do homework, to read with them and bringing them to the library.
  • Listen to our children when they speak, to pay them our full attention, of having regular conversations on what takes place in their life and to request their opinion during the family discussions.
  • Allow the children to express their feelings. Teach to the children the language of feelings by using words as angry, sad, proud, embarrassed or frustrated.
  • Allow them to express their opinions, to negotiate and even to question sometimes the ideas of their parents. Allow them to assert themselves in a respectful way.
  • Use measures of positive discipline: teach them to understand repercussions (positive and negative) of their behavior, their gestures and their choices; fix reasonable limits; explain and show to the children the expected behavior.
  • Allow them to make choices suited for their age, as well as to make errors.
  • Teach them optimistic thoughts and help them to manage their stress.


The Finnish system showed us that empathy is very important in education. However, we learn that nothing replaces love of parental figures at the risk of affecting the development of our brain and developing inappropriate social behavior. Furthermore, the patterns of attachment of the early childhood echoes throughout the life cycle but also tend to be passed on in the following generation.




Bibliography :

  1. Bowlby, J. (1954). « Soins maternels et santé mentale ». Cahiers de l’O.M.S., Genève
  2. Bowlby, J. (1969). ” Les effets sur le comportement d’une rupture des liens affectifs “, Hygiène mentale du Canada, no 59, 1-13.
  3. Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachement et perte. Vol. 1. Attachement, P.U.F., Paris.
  4. Fonagy, P. et al. (1996). ” Fantômes dans la chambre d’enfant : étude de la répercussion des représentations mentales des parents sur la sécurité de l’attachement “, Psychiatrie de l’enfant, vol. XXXIX, no 1, 63-83.
  5. Galbaud, Diane. « L’empathie de l’enseignant, source de réussite scolaire ». http://www.scienceshumaines.com/l-empathie-de-l-enseignant-source-de-reussite-scolaire_fr_35667.html 15/01/2016
  6. Goldberg, S. (1990). ” Attachment in infants at risk: theory, research and practice “, Infants and Young Children, vol. 2, no 4, 11-20.
  7. Holland, R. et al.(1993). ” Attachment and Conduct Disorder : The Response Program “, Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 38, 420-431.
  8. Meaney, M. (1997). Le développement de l’enfant et ses effets à long terme sur la santé, Conférence présentée à l’Université Mc Gill dans le cadre de l’Institute for CorText Research and Development.
  9. Michelle St-Antoine, Michelle St-Antoine. « Les troubles de l’attachement ». http://www.lenfantdabord.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Troubles-de-lattachement1.pdf 2011
  10. Steinhauer, P.D. (1996). « Le Moindre Mal ». Les Presses de l’Université de Montréal, Montréal, 463 p.
  11. x. « Les enfants peuvent s’en sortir Favoriser la résilience des enfants à la maison comme à l’école » https://www.desjardinsassurancevie.com/fr/evenements-vie/Documents/D%C3%A9velopper%20la%20r%C3%A9silience%20des%20enfants%20final.pdf
  12. x.“Empathy”. https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/empathy
  13. Zeanah, C.H. (1996). ” Pathologies du lien parent-nourrisson et transmission intergénérationnelle “, PRISME, vol. 6, no 1, 55-71.

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