You are sure to have plenty of opportunities to teach lessons of empathy to your child.
When you observe him saying or doing something that seems mean or insensitive, try to recall that this is most likely due his inability to understand how the other person feels. Instead of punishment, you can use the moment to teach empathy. The calmer and more understanding you can be, the more willing your child will be to listen to you. Tell him what you saw him do or what your heard him say and ask him, “How do you think Leon feels about you calling him an idiot?”
Don’t be surprised if he does not answer you, as he may not know how Leon feels, in which case you will tell him that Leon feels mad and sad. If he has learned from your teaching that kids feel bad when they are called names, he may tell you, “Leon feels bad.” This shows the beginning stages of empathy. Don’t assume, however, that just because he can label the feeling, that he has an emotional understanding of how the other person feels. He will have to spend several years simply learning how other people feel before he begins to have some emotional sense.