Parenting is rough. Everyday I put my son’s needs in front of my own and focus almost all of my attention on him and his well being. It’s no secret, my son can be a challenge sometimes. He can be a little monkey running around screaming and jumping one minute and an angel the next.
How can I reduce all of this chaos? By becoming a more empathetic parent. Embracing empathy allows me to understand my son better, have an easier time relating to him and helping him with his struggles.
What is empathy?
Empathy is defined as understanding what it’s like to be in another person’s shoes.
In my lawyer/educator life I’m working on a certificate course for JD students. One of the main topics is how to increase empathy in our students. Harvard Business Review defines empathy as a vital leadership skill and many business journals tout the importance of emotional intelligence and communication skills for new graduates.
Since I started working on the course, I’ve been thinking about how empathy can not only benefit us in business, but with our kids as well.
Why is empathy important in parenting?
Our lives are so busy and hectic that we aren’t always thinking about what it’s like to be in our child’s shoes. How is he feeling? Is it scary to go swimming by himself for the first time? Is he sad that his grandparents are away on a vacation?
Considering these feelings and parenting empathetically can help you improve your relationship with your child. By fostering empathy you are showing your child that he can trust you, that you’ll understand and help if he is upset. Not only does this reassure him, but it can also help with reigning in negative behavior.
This understanding will also go far as your child gets older. If you’re harsh and overly strict with your children at a young age, they won’t trust you but may fear you instead. Being scared of you won’t encourage your child to approach you for help or advice. On the other hand, when your child trusts you, he will be reassured and know that it’s ok to speak to you about any issues he may have.
Personally, I’d rather have my son be open and willing to reach out to me when he’s upset because he trusts me than have a perfectly behaved but fearful child.
How Can You Become a More Empathetic Parent?
Being a more empathetic parent means that you are able to sense how your child is feeling at a given time, as well as acting with compassion and understanding.
Here are some small and easy to implement strategies that have worked for us:
- Listen to your kids and listen actively – when your child is upset don’t get upset at him, listen to what’s bothering him. Demonstrate to him that you hear what he’s saying. One way of doing this is by repeating back to him what he’s telling you but using different language.
- Pay attention to the little things – is there a trigger that is upsetting your child? Can you get rid of it?
- Don’t trample your child’s emotions
- What does your child love to do? Try and do it more often with him
- Pay attention to what he doesn’t like as well
- Try to be present
- Check in with him every once in a while
- Try to be more patient
- Let him solve his problem on his own but be there to help
Are you working on becoming a more empathetic parent? How are you doing it?