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Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014

Dad begins parenting experiment focused on compassion

Compiled by Lois M. Collins, Deseret News National Edition

Published: Mon, July 21 6:20 a.m. MDT

 A popular columnist said he's committed to teaching his sons to be committed

A popular columnist said he's committed to teaching his sons to be committed

(Getty Images)

In the wake of numerous school shootings, "viral humiliation" and teen suicide, one dad has decided to launch his family on a social experiment he hopes will serve them — and society — well.

Columnist Kozo Hattori tells the Good Men Project that he's committing his life to raising his sons to be, first and foremost, compassionate. He believes that "something is wrong with how we are raising our children." Each week, Hattori plans to write about his journey on his blog for the project.

As he explains it, "As the father of two young boys, I never want my sons to be involved in any of these atrocities. Of course, I don’t want them to be the perpetrators, but I also don’t want them to be the bystanders. I don’t just fear for their safety; I am concerned about their humanity."

Hattori wants to take a different approach than that of his own childhood, he notes. It was filled with strict rules and corporal punishment. He was physically abused and, like many who have been abused, he grew up a very unempathetic individual. He's faced relationship difficulties all his life and has had to work hard to change the course of his life. His goal is to do better by his sons, he said.

His biography on the Good Men Project calls Hattori "a writer and counselor for men and parents at PeaceInRelationships.com. Creator of the Compassionate Men Interview Series, he is working on a book and audio program titled 'Raising Compassionate Boys.’ ”

Lack of empathy and child abuse are often linked in research. The Sanctuary for the Abused, an online site that offers information and resources for people who have been abused, notes that "without empathy, there is no compassion. Empathy is the highest level of moral development. A person who totally lacks empathy has not conscience and is capable of committing horrific acts against others — child abuse, serial murder, genocide."

Efforts to boost empathy and compassion among youths may be important, considering research that shows it has been on the wane in American youths.

"But the new finding that empathy is on the decline indicates even when a trait is hardwired, social context can exert a profound effect, changing even our most basic emotional responses. Precisely what is sapping young people of their natural impulse to feel for others remains mysterious, however, because scientists cannot design a study to evaluate changes that occurred in the past. As (the researcher) puts it, 'you can’t randomly assign people to a generation,’ ” wrote Scientific American's Jamil Zaki a couple of years ago regarding empathy research from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

Published in Personality and Social Psychology Review, it found that "college students’ self-reported empathy has declined since 1980, with an especially steep drop in the past 10 years. To make matters worse, during this same period students’ self-reported narcissism has reached new heights, according to research by Jean M. Twenge, a psychologist at San Diego State University," Zaki wrote.

Another study led by the same researcher and published in the journal PLoS One found that men who are narcissists also have unhealthy levels of cortisol. It impacts their health in other ways, too.

"Narcissism is characterized by grandiosity, low empathy levels and a sense of entitlement, the researchers said. Narcissistic men, it turns out, release more cortisol — even when they're not in stressful situations," said an article in the Deseret News on that research.

"Narcissistic men may be paying a high price in terms of their physical health, in addition to the psychological cost to their relationships," said Sara Konrath, study co-author and University of Michigan psychologist, in a written statement.

The values of empathy are many, according to an article in Psychology Today. "When we are in conflict with someone, or are adversely affected by someone's actions, even without personal interaction, or see others being adversely affected, our habit is often to pull back, close our hearts, create judgments about the other person, and all around make them less than human."

Email: lois@deseretnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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1. gmlewis
Houston, TX,
July 21, 2014

Romans 1:31 and 2 Timothy 3:3 said that in the last days, men would be "without natural affection." We are seeing that prophecy fulfilled in ways we could not imagine 200 years ago. It is incredible that teaching our sons to have empathy is actually something newsworthy. This father is to be commended and encouraged in this "experiment," but there shouldn't be any question that a whole generation needs this loving guidance.

2. AZKID
Mapleton, UT,
July 21, 2014

Taking gmlewis's comment a step further, religion, and particularly, Christianity, rightly practiced, teaches this same compassion. A self-governing, liberal society, desperately needs such religion to counter the tendencies of the natural man in each of us.

It follows, that whenever a progressive takes a stance that is hostile to religion, they are sadly perpetuating the problem.