Monday, July 25, 2011

Changing My Response - An Exercise in Empathy

This little sweetum (The one riding a bike in mis-matched pj's while pulling the dog who is wearing a blanket as a saddle on a leash behind her...) makes me question my ability to parent every day.  I have to learn to focus on big picture issues.  I can't stop every tantrum from happening.  I can't make her obey me.  I can't change her heart.  But I can change my responses to the every day happenings of life.

So this is what I sit around evaluating: How am I screwing up my children and how can I avoid that.  Seriously, I sit around having those exact thoughts going through my head.  Regularly.

My latest response I'm working on re-framing is showing empathy to my children.  Here's a little example:

Evelyn will decide that she isn't going to eat her supper.  I tell her that once she gets down she's done eating, so she needs to eat her dinner so she won't be hungry later.  But what does mom know?  She gets down anyway.  Later that evening she complains of hunger.  There are a lot of responses I could pull out here.  My instinctual response is to say, "I told you this would happen!  Why didn't you eat your dinner???"

That very well may be a justified response.  I want my response to show empathy though.  So my new response (when I'm being intentional) is to say, "I'm so sorry, honey.  I bet you do feel hungry and that's hard."

Because I'm trying to look long-term, and here is my fear.  Someday she is going to be 16.  And she's going to do something that I warned her she shouldn't do.  It may have very real consequences beyond feeling hungry because you didn't eat your dinner.  She will experience real hurt.  The last thing I want is for her to expect my response to be, "I told you this would happen!  Why did you do that???"  Rather, I want her to know that regardless of the choices she makes, she will be met with love, compassion, and respect by her parents. 

It's more important to me that my children know that they can come to me with anything and be met with empathy and respect, than to think that I can control them by having my responses be judgmental.  That in some way, my shows of judgment will somehow cause them to exhibit only positive behavior.


  1. Hello Elizabeth, I just wanted to say thank you for sharing this post. I despise having "I told you so" in my vocabulary and I find myself using it more than I should. What a great way to turn it around to have more of a positive outlook on those situations.

    Also, I am featuring your blog on my "We ♥ Mom Bloggers blog", :)

  2. I found this blog on We (heart) Mom Bloggers, sorry I dont know how to make the little heart sign. But this really made me think about how I raise my children. I am famous for the I told you so's and, "You just dont listen..." And boy did I get a kick in the rear. You have encouraged me to really put myself in check! Thank you for that...