What children do not come by naturally is empathy, the ability to understand another person’s perspective and want to help them. Empathy, as it turns out, is a skill—akin to math or science or writing—that must be taught, over and over and over. And it must be taught. Not only does empathy help turn children into more pleasing people; it also is a key to forging social connections that contribute to overall happiness and success.
Danish children learn, from a young age, that being connected socially—and empathetically—to other people is as important as securing a high grade on their exams. They carry this with them beyond the school walls, into adulthood and their communities. It’s like counteractive programming: Yes, survival requires selfishness; but living takes something much harder—generosity.