Bringing babies in to primary schools to teach youngsters about empathy is a remarkable international success story.
The initiative which is proving so productive in Edinburgh schools was inspired by a project which started life almost 20 years ago in Canada. The idea behind the programme is incredibly simple – that children can learn about the emotional needs of others from interacting with babies.
Over the course of a series of classroom visits the primary pupils can see for themselves the effect of kindness and nurturing on their tiny visitors. The method too is incredibly simple. It involves laying the child on a blanket in the middle of the classroom and teaching the children how to interact with the baby by following the example of a loving parent.
The result, as a series of studies in Canada, the US, New Zealand and now Scotland have shown, is a dramatic reduction in bullying and aggressive behaviour. The results have been particularly impressive when introduced to children from troubled homes. For some who take part in these sessions it is the first time that they have experienced this kind of loving parenting firsthand. It is a very dynamic way of teaching children about the need for kindness.
The work of Action for Children Scotland in introducing the Roots of Empathy programme to Scottish schools has changed hundreds of lives. Bullying is a problem which affects thousands of youngsters in one form or another. It can make life a misery for the children involved and be extremely damaging to their confidence and development. A lot of good work goes on in city schools to tackle the problem and deal with its causes. What is especially impressive about this initiative is that it is results based. The programme has spread around the world because it has been measured time and again to prove that it can change behaviour and transform lives.