Center for Building a Culture of Empathy

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Culture of Empathy Builder:  Robin Grille

Nurturing Empathic Family and Parenting
"Our job is to be the teachers of empathy We are empathy farmers!"
Robin Grille and Edwin Rutsch

Robin Grille is an "empathy farmer", father, a psychologist in private practice with twenty years' experience, and a parenting educator. His articles on parenting and child development have been widely published in Australia and overseas. Robin's first book: 'Parenting for a Peaceful World'  has received international acclaim and led to speaking engagements around Australia, USA and New Zealand. 'Heart to Heart Parenting' is Robin's second book.

A passionate speaker and social change activist, Robin's extensive research has led him to feel that improved attention to babies' and children's emotional needs is the most powerful way to move societies toward sustainability and peace.


"The human brain and heart that are met primarily with empathy
the critical early years cannot and will not grow to
choose a violent or selfish life.


"Building of human empathy is one brick at a time and sometimes
bricks come down in the building process.


"Nobody can escape life's struggles and traumas, but those who have experienced the empathy that helped them build a strong sense of self in childhood tend to have a strong foundation for emotional resilience and can draw on positive internal resources to help them resolve and rebound."

Sub Conference: Empathic Family



To Heal the Human Heart

by Robin Grille,

"The science of empathy is now one of the most celebrated subjects of psychological and neuro-psychological enquiry and it has the potential to transform human society in spectacular ways.  For instance, if a human being's central nervous system carries blueprints for empathy, and if the health and vitality of one's empathy circuits depend on one's environment from conception through adulthood, what does that mean about our moralistic judgments of good and evil, and of punishment and reward? This well-written piece on the latest findings on empathy and on its limitations offers some surprising and heartening answers."




Empathic Family and Parenting. Part: 1 Robin Grille and Edwin Rutsch




How Might We Nurture Empathy in Families? Part 2: Robin Grille and Edwin Rutsch



"Good" Children - at What Price? The Secret Cost of Shame
by Robin Grille and Beth Macgregor
"While shaming has the power to control behavior, it does not have the power to teach empathy. When we repeatedly label a child "naughty" or otherwise, we condition them to focus inwardly, and they become pre-occupied with themselves and their failure to please. Thus children learn to label themselves, but learn nothing about relating, or about considering and comprehending the feelings of others.

For empathy to develop, children need to be shown how others feel. In calling children "naughty", for example, we have told the child nothing about how we feel in response to their behavior.
Children cannot learn about caring for others' feelings, nor about how their behavior impacts on others, while they are thinking: "There is something wrong with me." In fact, psychotherapists and researchers are finding that individuals who are more prone to shame, are less capable of empathy toward others, and more self-preoccupied.

The only true basis for morality is a deeply felt empathy toward the feelings of others. Empathy is not necessarily what drives the "well-behaved" "good boy" or "good girl".
by Robin Grille and Beth Macgregor


Emotions are Not Bad Behavior
by Robin Grille
Excerpted from Heart to Heart Parenting
"It's a fact of human relationships that our capacity for listening is elusive; we lose it, we regain it, we lose it again. Sometimes it is hard to see whether we are listening so that our children really feel heard. We kid ourselves. We think we are listening when really we are avoiding contact - and then we are bewildered by and surprised at our child's frustration. It can be very useful to get a clear picture of what is listening and what is not.

When our own fears, our shame, our jealousies or our emotional exhaustion get in the way, we tend to play some pretty clever games to deflect our children's communications so that their feelings won't touch us.

One of the biggest reasons we avoid listening is because our children's disappointments make us feel guilty. Our evasive tactics are called "empathy blockers". Empathy blockers save us the trouble of listening, but they cost us our connection with each other. Sometimes we use empathy blockers inadvertently because we are anxiously trying to save our children from emotional pain. Ironically, the greatest salve for our children comes from being heard, not from us trying to change how they feel. For all of these reasons, we all use empathy blockers from time to time, quite automatically and unconsciously."


Parent Guilt - A Silent Epidemic
by Robin Grille
"Guilt and remorse are very different; in fact they are opposites. Remorse is about the other: it is about allowing their feelings, listening with empathy, and it is about the desire and effort to repair any hurt we may have caused....

Given this legacy, can you still expect yourself to be an expert at meeting your child's emotional needs? We are collectively beginners, trying to heal ourselves while creating a new model for empathic parenting. Considering this historical backdrop, is it easier for you to acknowledge and forgive your mistakes? For sure, we all have blind spots and as parents we occasionally stumble. Some of us are good at empathy but have trouble asserting strong boundaries....

Empathy can be a hard-won skill. Psychologists and counsellors spend hundreds of hours learning how to listen to people's feelings so that they feel heard. Despite all that training and even after years of experience, not one of us can claim that we don't need to keep improving our ability to empathize. Good listening requires a conscious effort to be humble, open, and to set judgment and expectations aside - we can keep learning this forever."


Post Natal Depression - Mental Illness or Natural Reaction?
by Robin Grille
"That is why every mother needs the ongoing empathic support of her family, and friends who can listen intently, who have traveled this territory, and can mentor her through it. She needs friends who can hold her, share their own experiences with her, and reassure her that her emotional ups and downs are OK."


Empathic Parenting: Landscape of the Soul
by Gary Caganoff
"The empathic parenting style is based on very different ethics of child raring to the dominant punitive authoritarian parenting of the pre WWII generations, and different again from the permissive parenting style that grew out of Dr. Benjamin Spock's work post WWII (Grille, 2005, p79, p85).

Both these latter styles of parenting are still the dominant child-raring practices in our society.

The authoritarian style of parenting aims to, 'train the child to conform to cultural norms...
Where the parent, while (perhaps) not lacking affection, tends to view the child through a moral lens that dichotomises behaviour into 'good' and 'bad' (Grille, 2005, p69).

This style of child raring enforces discipline and control in order to bend the child to fit parental and social expectations, which limit self-expression and tries to create the 'good child'...

The opposite of authoritarian 'control' parenting is permissive 'out-of-control' parenting, where you, as the parent, allow your child to control you, the parent, through your own compliance, indulgence, or indifference (Paul, 2007, web page). "

TEDx: Peace code in the human brain | Robin Grille


"Ground-breaking discoveries about early childhood and the human brain have offered vital clues about the roots of human violence and social disharmony. Our brains' empathy centres grow - or fail to grow - according to how we are nurtured. Avalon's Robin Grille will cite several examples of startling advances in democracy, peace and social harmony that have resulted from child-rearing reforms around the world. What are the specific implications for parents, teachers and social policy makers? Discover your personal role in this unfolding global movement!"

2:30 : The brain of a child grows in the way that child is treated. So in an empathic environment the brain of this child grows in one way. But in an environment that is harsh, punitive and cold, the same child's brain would grow quite differently. So, our early childhood relationships grow our brain. The shape our behaviour and that is how we create the kind of societies that we are going to have."

  • Have at least 10 empathy centers in the brain.
  • We have mirror neurons.
  • Empathy centers grow with nourishment and use.
  • When a child receives empathy, this grows new neural pathways in the brains empathy centers.
  • Stress kills neurons
  • "This peace code in the human brain, it lived in the empathy centers. It's hard wired there as a potentiality awaiting the right input form the outside so that it can grow to full maturity."

Interview with author Robin Grille of Parenting for a Peaceful World.
"Particularly in the last few decades, child-rearing approaches have been evolving so rapidly overall towards much more empathic and much more caring, nurturing, and natural ways to relate to children and already that has begun to make a big difference in the world now. I like looking at that sense of evolution because we continue evolving child-rearing customs in this way. Our prospects for the future are extremely, extremely positive....

or instance, we are learning that any act of tenderness and affection towards a small child, even an older child, literally causes a cascade of the well-being hormones in the child's body and around the child's brain such as oxytocin. That is a hormone. It is a brain chemical that brings about deep feelings of love and empathy. Enough of it even leads to states of bliss....

Quite specifically in the areas of the brain that regulate emotion, so that the more oxytocin a child gets and the baby gets it is like the healthier their brain is going to be and the areas of the brain the enable a human being to be loving and full of empathy for other humans, for other people, for empathy for our life, those are the areas of the brain that are being nourished by oxytocin. Now, to me I think that is probably the single most exciting discovery in the history of science and the most important discovery."



Quotes by Robin Grille

"Authoritarian parenting and schooling moves us a bit more in the direction of dictatorship and environmental abuse.  Empathic and authoritative parenting and schooling moves us a bit towards democratic, peaceful and sustainable society."

"Building of human empathy is one brick at a time and sometimes the bricks come down in the building process.


"Nobody can escape life's struggles and traumas, but those who have experienced the empathy that helped them build a strong sense of self in childhood tend to have a strong foundation for emotional resilience and can draw on positive internal resources to help them resolve and rebound."


"The human brain and heart that are met primarily with empathy in the critical early years cannot and will not grow to choose a violent or selfish life."


"Our job is to be the teachers of empathy - We are empathy farmers!"