How do children become caring, helpful, and altruistic? I will discuss the socialization practices by adults and the experiences that children require to achieve this. I want to start, however, with several issues relevant to raising caring children who are unlikely to engage in terrorism.
First, it is possible for children to learn to care about others’ welfare, but to restrict their caring to members of their own group. This group may be a family or extended family, a tribe, a religious or ethnic group, a nation, or defined in some other way. This makes it easier for caring children, who become caring adults, to turn against people outside the group. My concern will be with the development of caring both for members of one’s “ingroup” and for people outside one’s group, that is, with the development of “inclusive” caring. A strong differentiation between “us” and “them,” a negative view of those outside the group, and scapegoating of others for life problems and ideologies that identify some others as enemies of the right way of life—these practices not only lead to an absence of caring for the “other,” but contribute to the possibility of violence, including terrorism.
Second, caring for others’ welfare develops through experiential learning. While children can be effectively instructed and guided by words, and this may even develop an “experiential understanding” that contributes to a positive orientation to self and others, caring cannot be developed by verbal communication alone.