EMPATHY – THE KEY TO EVERYTHING WITH CHILDREN
Picture a world where you child shares everything with you, life is resolvable, problems sorted, and communication…..exists! This is very easily achievable. I kid you not. And the earlier one starts the greater the success rate. This can all be achieved by using empathy with your kids. (The bonus to all this is they at the same time will learn to be empathic to others).
WHY IS EMPATHY SO GOOD
Empathy works because your child feels he/she is being listened to. Being empathic doesn’t mean you agree or you are telling them what to do, it just means you acknowledge what they have said. When a child feels listened to, they cooperate better, are more inclined to see reason, and less inclined to argue. They also develop better coping skills to what they feelThe beauty of using empathy is it works on everyone. Try it on your husband – you will be surprised how they respond back to being listened to.
HOW TO BE EMPATHIC
Haven’t got an empathic bone in you, or unsure how to proceed?
Lower and quieten your tone so that you are speaking softly (almost like you would to a baby…).
Describe what they must be feeling. Describe the action.
“You must be real bummed out you lost the game. You put a lot of effort into it”
You have NO expectations or judgement. You are just acknowledging the way they feel and attempting to take on their perspective. Doing these steps with a softened tone makes you sound genuine.
If you are unsure of the emotion they are feeling, take a stab at it. They will correct you if you are wrong. “So it sounds like you maybe were a little unhappy that….”
So let me give you an example of when and how you would use empathy with your child.
Scenario 1: Your child just finished his weekend soccer game and the team lost even though they really played hard.
Your Response: I can see you are disappointed. You really tried. No need to promise an icecream on the way home. He just needs to have his feelings acknowledged and he will move on.
Scenario 2: Your child’s friend didn’t invite him to their birthday party
Your Response: “Being left out hurts… (pause…) but that gives us time to work out which two friends you would like to have over for a sleepover this weekend. Notice he has not been promised the moon in response to his disappointment, and it has given him a distraction and something to look forward to.
Scenario 3: Siblings are fighting. A favourite toy got ripped.
Your Response: Individually to each party. Victim comes first.
You’re hurt that your favourite toy got ripped. I know it means such a lot to you
To the offender – “I can see you are really angry that Bobby took your rubber. Let’s have a sit down later and we will all discuss how this could have been handled differently. Notice you havn’t lost your cool. You have remained calm and then later when you have all come up with different and better ways to handle the issue, then with your guidance they can devise appropriate consequences. And generally, they will enact it.
Scenario 4: Your child comes into your bedroom after having a bad dream.
Your Response: “That dream was scary” not “It’s not real”. By acknowledging they had a bad dream they will learn to handle it better and settle back to bed easier.
EMPATHY CHECK LIST
Remember to focus your attention on them, when they are talking.
Don’t be checking your phone while they are talking
Look into their eyes so they can see you are listening
Acknowledge their emotions
Having been provided the ammunition doesn’t mean instant success. It all takes practice. You will find it encouraging though when you get a response to your attempts, which will then inspire you to keep trying. Good luck😊
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