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Helping hands can be tiny ones

December 10, 2009

We all have seen stories of precocious infants doing everything from playing the piano to speaking a foreign language. It is nice to know that the experts also see evidence that infants have an innate desire to help others. As reported in a recent book by Dr. Michael Tomasello (featured in recent New York Times article), even a child 12 months old will point at objects when an adult pretends to have lost them.

You may not see evidence of such helpful behavior in your own home, Tomasello cautions, because the competitiveness of family life interferes with this natural tendency to cooperate and look out for others. In his book, “Why We Cooperate,” the developmental psychologist says children show signs of reciprocating behavior — being more helpful to a child who has helped them. And as they learn what is expected in the society where they grow up, they learn those norms in order to be part of the group.

That is even more reason to reinforce the values of generous values of our community and of so many families who live here and support efforts to make a better life for everyone. We can all build on a child’s innate sense of kindness and see the results as the next generation takes its turn in making life better for the next generation…and the next…and the next.

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