When I was still a kindergartener, so four or five years old, my parents hired a new housekeeper who worked for us for the rest of my formative years. She was two years younger than my mom and my parents told me very firmly that she was the boss when they were away and I was to obey her as she was the adult. She never raised her voice when she disciplined me and treated me with respect at all times saying that too much familiarity breeds contempt and that a certain level of civility should be maintained through observance of common courtesy.
This didn't suprirse me much in that I had been schooled at a parochial nursery-kindergarten where teachers never raised their voices and treated me and my classmates with the utmost respect.
One day, I fell while playing outdoors, scraped my knee and started to cry. The housekeeper rushed towards me and asked me where I was hurt and started to rub my knee gently saying, "Ouch, ouch, fly away pain," or something to that effect in Japanese, which sounded like a magic spell and took me by surprise but, after this, she turned to the stone I tripped on and rubbed it, too, saying, "Oh, you, too, were hurt," which surprised me even more.
This was my first lesson in empathy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empathy that I can remember, although I must have been taught earlier to be very careful when handling pets or holding a baby sister for the first time.
I wonder what teachers and caregivers can do at schools to encourage empathy in children for each other and animals. Reading story books that emphasize caring seems like a good idea, as well as keeping class mascots like the cuddly sugar gliders (who are nocturnal, sleep during the day and are easily agitated in a noisy environment and like being carried like babies in a pouch made of cloth that the pet owners can wear and pretend to be marsupials.) Role playing is probably effective, also, for simulating and experiencing different situations and outcomes in pairs, switching roles to see how it feels to be treated one way or another.
There must be many other ways to teach empathy to children.
Books that teach empathy http://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-lists/books-teach-empathy
Parent's Poll: Do You Think That Empathy Can Be Taught? http://www.highlightsparents.com/polls_and_your_opinions/parents_poll_do...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gIgLGt4hZuY Roots of Empathy Program
http://cultureofempathy.com/References/Quotes.htm Quotes on Empathy