Too much empathy, is that a thing?

At 9 years of age my daughter has more emotions and empathy than many adults. We have to monitor what she watches, not just because shes 9, but because she is easily upset.

When she was about 6 her favorite cartoon was ‘Milly and Molly’. In one of the episodes Milly and Molly’s teacher had a pet bird she would bring to school. The teachers bird didn’t come to school one day and she told the class that the bird had passed away over night. The class puts there lunch money together and the next day arrive at school with a new bird for their teacher.

Sakye, my emotional child, cried and cried and cried. She asked me ‘why did the bird have to die mum?’ I’m sorry baby girl, but death is a part of life. But how do you convey that to a 9 year old?

She continued watching her favorite cartoon and every time that episode was on she would start to cry and wonder why all over again. Ferdinand the Bull, a fabulous movie, she cried because people made fun of Ferdinand and ‘that’s not OK mum’ Finding Nemo, she cried because ‘poor Nemo look what he’s going through’ Beauty and the Beast (the original thank you) she cried because ‘Beast isn’t that bad mum, he doesn’t know any better’. Her little brother’s naming day when she was 5 she cried because everyone came together and celebrated her special little brother.

Sometimes I really struggle with how to deal with her and what to say to her. She seems to have an abundance of emotions that are always on high alert, even for the smallest thing. She feels bad for people that aren’t real and I can understand that but it’s almost like she can’t tell the difference between what’s real, as in, people around her, and what’s not, like cartoons and TV shows.

Does that matter? Do we feel less empathy for people or characters that aren’t real? Do we teach our children, without even meaning to, that because it’s on a TV show or in a movie that it isn’t as important?

Last year, she struggled with bullies at school. She would come home daily saying ‘this person did this today’ ‘this person did that today’ ‘can I just stay home today mum’ ‘I have a belly ache and don’t want to go to school’. I struggled because she was struggling. When it comes to my babies, if they are hurting because of someone, that someone is going to have a raging mumma on their hands.

I went to the school but they were unhelpful, which made me even angrier. Sakye was getting even more upset because I was so mad and so I had to turn it around. I was not helping her, even though I thought I was. I even told her and taught her to stop her bullies by giving them a nice big uppercut. I knew she wouldn’t do it because she didn’t want to get into trouble with the teachers. We made it through the year by instilling in her that “how people treat you is more of a reflection of who they are not who you are” and yes, at 9 years old she understood this.

This year has been much better, she’s made new friends and she’s come out of her shell a lot more. She does have one little person in her class whose parent works at the school as a teacher, this little person like to play that card against her ‘friends’. She told Sakye yesterday that she can do what she wants cause her mum works at the school and she won’t get into trouble. Sakye’s response ‘Good for you, I won’t get into trouble if I punch you cause mum told the principal you’re an asshole and deserve it’ (insert major OH SHIT moment here)

Apparently whilst teaching Sakye the importance of standing up for yourself and your friends she has over heard me saying something similar. I forget she hears everything and picks up on the feelings of others. I haven’t even been to the school this year to see the principal, but according to Sakye she said ‘it just came out mum before I thought about it’ and my first thought was yep, there I am. She’s slowly losing her filter when it comes to things she doesn’t like and although that’s not all bad, I’m waiting by my phone for a call from the school today!

So my little 9 year old baby is starting to care less about what people think about her and what her reactions to things are. I’m changing that and the way I react to things when she’s around. Whilst I’m happy she isn’t caring as much what people say about her or think about her, I’m not going to let her become just like many people and have little to no empathy or emotions and not think about her reactions to things.

My baby is growing up and I don’t like it. As hard as it is to deal with her emotional little butt, I don’t raise sheep. She will not conform to what others think is ‘right’. Much like the way I was raised. By a strong woman who shows no mercy when doing things that are right for her, showing compassion, having the emotional capabilities to deal with any situation but never conforming to others ideas of ‘normal’.

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  1. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that as I was reading your post (which I enjoyed immensely) Kohlberg’s theory of moral development sprang to mind. A simple explanation of this theory is by US teacher Rafe Esquith and can be found here:
    I can see, from your post, Sakye moving through the various levels in relation to the story of being bullied. She initially doesn’t want to retaliate because she might get in trouble, but as she’s gotten older her reasons for acting in a particular way change as she moves from one level of moral development to another.
    Let’s hope she continues to have an abundance of empathy – the world needs more of it. And let’s hope she continues to use that empathy to be kind and generous to all she comes into contact with.


    1. I think as well as going through ‘moral development’ children watch how others react. In fact, we all do. The saying ‘do as I say not as I do’ comes to mind. Sakye knows how I react to things. She knows this from watching. That is why I feel it is important to change how I react so I can help her learn how to. I also am hoping she continues to have loads of empathy for people and for things. It’s a good quality to have and will help her chose the right path in life.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It also makes me wonder about my own emotions at that age. Sakye wouldn’t deal with most of the shows and plays I watched and loved, and still do. Les Mis, for example, I watched and whilst never understood it, I found myself captivated by the singing, the words of those songs, the way I felt. Maybe That’s the difference between us. I still cry watching it to this day, but now it’s because I understand it not just because I can feel the emotions.

        Liked by 1 person

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