This blog is the third in a five-part series about raising responsible children. Last week we went over the importance of Experience and how it plays a role in these five steps. We hope you are able to follow along each week and put each of these steps into practice in your day-to-day life.Empathy is the third Essential E. Empathy means to be empathetic or “sad for” our children when they make mistakes, misbehave or act out rather than getting angry, frustrated, or nagging them.
Think about this: You are late to work because of a problem with your car. Your boss yells at you, lectures you about the importance of being on time and threatens you that the next time you are late, you're fired. How do you feel about your boss right now? Are you ready to hit the help-wanted ads as soon as you get home?
As you can imagine, if you show anger and frustration and act from this emotion with your children, they are going to feel the same way. They might block you out instead of listening. Or they might get defensive and angry. Or they might just get frightened of you and run away!
We don't want any of these responses from our kids. We want our children to learn from their mistakes. That's what effective parenting is all about. Discipline means to teach, not punish. And the way we do this is by showing Empathy before delivering the consequences.
Don’t say: "You broke my lamp with your ball! I've told you time and time again not to throw the ball in the house. Now look what you've done. Get in your room, now!" Do say: "Oh bummer. This is so sad. You broke the lamp with your ball. After you clean up this mess, why don't you head into your room for a little while to figure out how you'll pay for a new lamp."
Don’t say: "You forgot your medicine again! How many times do I have to remind you? You need to be more responsible!" Do say: "Oh boy. You forgot your medicine again this morning. How are you planning to repay me for the time and money it took to drive it over to the school?"
Showing Empathy instead of anger creates a loving, supportive atmosphere. Children feel encouraged, supported, and are more likely to learn from their errors (which includes misbehavior). Our child’s poor choice becomes the “bad guy,” not us parents! Empathy provides love and respect even as it locks in the learning experience.
So that's the scoop on Empathy. Join us next week as we discuss the fourth Essential E: Expectations.
Watch a video of Dr. Cline and Lisa Greene discussing Empathy.
Foster W. Cline, MD is a child psychiatrist and co-founder of Love and Logic®. Lisa C. Greene is a parent educator and mom of two children with cystic fibrosis. Together they have written the award-winning book “Parenting Children with Health Issues." Visit www.ParentingChildrenWithHealthIssues.com.
© Copyright by Foster Cline, MD and Lisa Greene. All rights reserved.