My 6 year old really seems to get empathy rationally.
I try it like this... "WHAT did you say? You said you are going to hurt your sister. Do you remember when Gage said he would hurt you? How did you feel? Do you want your sister to feel like that? No. Are you sorry you said that? Tell her you're sorry. If you don't want to make people feel like you felt when Gage was mean to you, then never say those things to anyone" I way simplify for the younger ones, via emotions, less reasoning.
When anyone in the family is sad, like today, the 2 year old will say "You crying? You upset?" (then be really silly) "I make you smile? I make you happy?" The 4 and 6 year olds will tell whoever "I love you" and give them hugs. Of course, if they are angry at that person, they won't do this, but normally they will.
In our family, we have more danger for too much empathy (leading to over-sensitivity, anxiety and depression) than too little.
at 6:55 PM on Jun. 5, 2011