A Radiant Heart

A radiant heart is a wonderful thing.

It simply makes everything seem better when we are the recipients of purity and kindness from a radiant heart.

Roots of Empathy is an anti-bullying programme that was begun by Mary Gordon, in Toronto, Canada in 1996. Since its inception, Roots of Empathy has reached more than 450,000 children worldwide.

There are hundreds of anti-bullying programmes but ROE is a programme with a difference – the teachers are all babies.

In the Roots of Empathy program, a parent and baby (two to four months old at the start) visit a class nine times over the course of a school year. A trained Roots of Empathy instructor comes to the class along with the family to guide the children as they observe the relationship between the baby and his or her parent.

The instructor leads the children in noticing how the baby is growing and changing. The children also watch the loving relationship between the parent and baby and see how the parent responds to the baby’s emotions and meets the baby’s needs.  The relationship between a baby and parent is an ideal empathic model.  The children in the classes learn to understand the perspective of the baby and are helped to use this information to help them better understand their own feelings.   This emotional literacy helps to not only reduce bullying but also helps children to challenge cruelty and injustice.

Roots of Empathy places babies in the role of teachers because babies love without borders or definition. Babies respond intuitively to love. They are blind to differences as defined by the world. It is only when young children learn from the adult world that some are more worthy than others, because of some perceived difference, that we see the unfolding of the intergenerational legacy of racism, classism and a host of other “isms.” (1)

There is extensive evidence regarding the success of the ROE programmes and in 2012, the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington, in Seattle, USA, will undertake a study that will include neurophysiological evaluations that will look at structural (MRI) and functional (MEG brain imaging) changes associated with participation in the programs.

There is no heart more pure or radiant than a baby’s heart – we can learn a lot from them.


(1) Roots of Empathy, Changing the World Child by Child, Mary Gordon, p.7

Photograph – Northern Buttercups, Alaska – 1973 – photographer – Dennis Cowals

Persistent URL: arcweb.archives.gov/arc/action/ExternalIdSearch?id=550463


  1. The title of the article you quote from reminds me of the motto of Kiwanis International: “changing the world, one child at a time.” I have emailed a link to this post to one of our local Kiwanis board members! Empathy is indeed a powerful tool in preventing the development of bullying behaviors in young children. If we walk a mile in someone else’s shoes……I celebrate your sharing about the ROE program on this post today.

  2. Empathy as a school subject would make a giant change, not only as far as bullying is concerned…

    Very interesting post, thank you, Trisha. (Sorry for the late comments, still trying to catch up)

Leave a Reply