Monday, June 14, 2010
More on empathy
I've got to return a great parenting book that I borrowed, Siblings Without Rivalry, so I'll pull out some of the best parts in my next few posts.
Empathy is the ultimate challenge for me. For some people, the Rare Gems (RGs) I like to call them (which was incidentally the name of my secret girls club when I was 10 until my girl friend's brother started calling us the 'Retarded Girls') ... back on track ... my precious RGs are naturally empathetic. They can feel another person's burden, they feel before acting, they're just in tune with the whole picture. WOW! I'm at the opposite of the spectrum -- too caught up in my own emotions and perception. It's really too bad because I think a little empathy would go very far in improving my relationships.
Everyone needs to feel listened to, especially when it comes to expressing negative emotions. Anytime I've read stuff on making sure that your home is a place where your family are free to express their feelings, I'm never sure what is meant by that. Of course we express our feelings -- there's tons of emotionalism around here! Then again, sometimes my partner and I just want to shut the kids up -- "just ignore it", "don't be ridiculous", "stop being so sensitive". Here's a good example from the book:
older child tells parent "you're always with the baby". Instead of defending your position by saying "No, didn't I just read to you?", it's better to put the feelings into words "You don't like my spending so much time with him." Here's another one:
child complains to parent "he does it on purpose -- he only burps when I'm around" Instead of saying "big deal", try "You feel he does it just to irritate you."
JESUS! I can't do this! I'm not a shrink. OMG -- neither of us speak this way. It's painful to even type this out. But I can see how powerful it is. Listen and feel. It doesn't necessarily mean agreeing with your child's emotions. Simply showing them that you understand is enough. I'm going to try this, especially with my middle child.