HisplipBeing empathetic with a child is appropriate, loving and a wonderful way to remain connected. Being empathetic is simply about understanding the situation your child is facing and reflecting her feelings back to her. “I see you’re upset.” Sometimes when you say something like that a child, especially a preschooler, can misinterpret those words causing her to think she’s been given license to yell or negotiate with you.  

M: “I see you’re upset.

C: You’re mean for making me do this. I’m only doing 2, not 4!”      

Whoops, your plan to empathize took a left turn and morphed into a power struggle. That’s not what you intended, but there you are! There is a clearer way to empathize that won’t cause a power struggle or invalidate your boundaries. This form of empathizing uses words to acknowledge the struggle your child is having, yet reinforces the fact that this task needs to be accomplished.

M: “I see you’re upset.

C: You’re mean for making me do this. I’m only doing 2, not 4!”

M: “You can do it. I know it’s hard and you don’t like it, and it still needs to get done.”

This is clear, firm, empathetic and supportive all at once. Notice it doesn’t focus on the backchat the child used, that can be discussed when the task is finished so it doesn’t start another power struggle. And, it isn’t punitive in any way. It simply shows your child that you understand yet you still expect cooperation. That form of empathizing supports teaching corrections. After all a parents job during childhood is to age appropriately teach life skills so a child learns how to respectfully express their feelings and accomplish the skills needed to live in our fast paced world.

Proactive Parenting offers countless ways to create and use teaching corrections instead of punitive corrections. Stop Reacting and Start Responding, our book, all of our seminars and the live or phone coaching sessions offer ways to help parents shift their perspective while remaining connected to their child as they correct behavior. Take a look at what we have for you.   

Give this new way of empathizing a try, and let us know how it works out for you.