Thursday, December 19, 2013

Building empathy with my daughter

I've got two kids, ages six and two. As much as I might try to feel what it's like to be in their shoes, it's really, really hard. As in nearly impossible. :)

Remember this article on empathy traps? The trap I fall into headfirst with my kids is "fixing them". It's one thing to try to stay away from 'fixing' my friends, or strangers I meet, because they are all adults. I can see how I shouldn't tell them how to live their lives, because they are grownups who can make their own decisions.

For my daughter though it's so much harder to try not to fix her. She's my daughter, of course I want to try to fix all of her problems. I want to help her, I want to teach her, I want to control her happiness. But when I control her I lose the parenting game.


For example, let's take the other day when I wanted her to put away her toys. She got mad - and she showed her anger in a child's way, with pouting and stomping her foot and folding her arms. "No", she would shout, "No, no, no!" I got angry right back and her and said, "Don't be angry about that! That's not worth getting angry about!" Which is a totally silly and emotional thing to say. I say it because I'm feeling angry too - angry at her for being just like me.

I see and feel every day how much she is how I was at her age. Then I think, "Well, I finally stopped behaving that way, why won't she stop too!"

When I look at times like this in hindsight, I know that I should be listening to her anger or fear with empathy. I also see how hard it is to step out of that emotional moment. 


So here's the issue - right there. I want to be empathetic to my daughter, but I also have my own feelings to deal with, and her feelings too.



SR said...

1. adults don't think & act like kids & vice versa
2. you mean you're not a "perfect" parent? welcome to the club

Janet said...

Thanks SR! I'm just trying my best. :)

I agree, adults and kids don't think and act the same. I also see so often how we feel the same; and kids have a lot more license to act on them.

SL said...

sometimes your kids don't want empathy. they just want you to be a parent.

Janet said...

Hi SL, thanks for commenting.

Are you saying that empathy is not always the right answer in a situation? If so then I agree. However, I'm not sure I understand, is being 'empathetic' and being a 'parent' opposite choices? Can I be a parent and be empathetic?