The frontal lobes are responsible for empathetic behavior, allowing us to understand the thinking and experiences of others.
Read more: here
In my child development class I took ages ago, we studied this too.
You may have seen a scenario like this before- a child takes another child's toy away. It happens everyday. The other child gets angry, of course. Someone has seen the whole thing. Maybe the parent of the cleptomaniac has witnessed it and is embarrassed. So she goes over to the children and tells her child to say sorry. The child says it and looks down at the floor.
Has this child really learned anything? According to child development experts, he hasn't. As adults, we know right from wrong, what is socially acceptable what isn't. Taking things from others is generally frowned upon in this culture. But what about in the culture of childhood? What is that child really feeling?
Until they reach at least seven years old, children are narcissistic- not because they are like Kanye West, but because that is how their brains are developed (or rather under developed). Their whole world revolves around their own experiences and understanding that other people have lives is way beyond them. So when a child sees a toy he likes, he's going to go get it. As they get older, obviously, he will learn that it nicer to ask for it than take it, but if they are really young it's not going to matter who had it first whether it's mommy or daddy or the kid at the playground.
What they are really saying when they say sorry is "this phrase will appease my mom/dad/teacher" and children can feel resentful for having to say it. It's something to say because they told me to say it. The words are empty.
So how can you help your child develop their frontal lobes? Technically, the frontal lobes won't be FULLY developed until adulthood (undeveloped frontal lobes can be the culprit many teens make poor decisions as described in this npr article). But there are ways to help your child (or the children in your class) learn empathy skills early on.
Have the "offending" child sit with you and the "offended" child and while comforting the "offended" one, speak to the "offending" child in a calm, serious tone. You don't have to sound angry. You don't have to yell. Use a firm voice. Point out how the offended child's face looks like. "Look at your friend. Look at his face. Is his face happy or sad? His face looks sad, right? Do you know why? Because you took the toy/pushed him/ ate his food/etc. and it made him sad."
There is a reason why the offending child did what he did. So ask him "Are you sad too? Did you want that toy/food/turn for the slide?" Help him to understand his own feelings by giving him the words for it too. Then you can say something like "Ok, so next time, you can ask for the toy/food or you can wait for your turn, okay?"
If you really want to be cute, you can have them hug each other and then say "Okay, now... GO PLAY!!"
Everyone is happy. The offended and the offender probably forgot they were fighting at this point and are probably playing with each other again... until ten minutes later when you've got to repeat the process all over again....
a day in the life... sigh.