As a mother, I’m always questioning myself about the way I parent. How can I raise a happy and confident child? How do I avoid power struggles? How do I educate my child with respect? How do I teach her to be compassionate? The doubts go on and on, but I’ve come to realise that empathy can probably be the answer to many of my questions.
Empathy is the ability to feel what others are feeling. It goes beyond sympathy, which means feeling for someone. Empathy is feeling with someone and is key for the development of social relationships. But how can we incorporate empathy in our lives?
We can begin by really listening to others and approaching life with compassion. Looking at things from other people’s perspectives makes a significant difference because it allows us to stop making judgements and start understanding other people’s decisions and choices. That doesn’t mean we have to always agree with them, but being respectful can go a long way.
However, it’s not always easy. Having a child requires a lot of empathy, effort and patience, but sometimes we are so tired (physically and/or emotionally) that we just want things done our way, right now. So we end up loosing control and screaming or giving ultimatums to our children that, to our desperation, don’t work. But what if we try to understand why our children are not doing what we require of them? Are we considering their age and their physical and emotional needs? Most times, if we take these elements into consideration, we can understand their behaviour and find a solution that works for everyone.
Our own default patterns also play a big part in the way we relate to others. The way we were raised by our parents or guardians conditions how we react when our children or other people do something we don’t like. Listen to your thoughts before they become words or actions. Take time to think about your reactions and whether they are what you want them to be. If they’re not, breathe deeply and take a moment to think before letting your automatic responses take over. Think of your children as little people who deserve as much respect and understanding as an adult. Changing old habits is hard, but worth the effort. It will not only make you a happier person, but will also have a great impact on your children’s lives and those around you.