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develop empathy and connect with kids (2)

Developing Empathy and Understanding with Your Kids with Clair White

Identify family values

Establishing and identifying family values is more important than making sure we have the right “strategies” to use with our kids. It’s something that is unique to each family, so comparing your family and your kids, to others isn’t going to work.

Family values are always there, even if we don’t realize it. We need to name those values, and then compare our children’s behavior to those (not to our friend’s kids, or the neighbor kids, because they have their own unique set of family values).

Why is discipline so confusing?

We feel dissonance when we discipline in a way that doesn’t line up with our family values…it just doesn’t feel right. Once we recognize that, we can then start to better respond in ways that do line up with our values.

We need to be intentional

There is a difference between instilling our values into our kids versus controlling them. We need to establish that intentional relationship with them first. Then we when focus on that, on aligning with our kids, we get a lot more cooperation from them.

We usually focus on what we can see and how the behavior reflects on us as a parent. We need to stop and identify our core values first then intentionally communicate them in the way that we respond to our kids. We will find that our family values have to do with the relationship. Things like respect, kindness, compassion, etc. Recognizing this will automatically help us respond differently. Instead of responding because we are embarrassed we respond because those core values are not being upheld and that is what is important to us.

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How do you engage in that kind of empathy in the heat of the moment?

Be aware of your desires and your focus. Is your desire to control your kid so that you feel better about the way you parent or is it to understand what your kid is going through? Are you trying to understand what is the “why” behind their behavior?

Understand from the child’s perspective what the world is like right now. What will help us understand them better rather than respond to some assumption that we have.

When questioned, teens say that they want to be known. They want parents to show interest and desire to understand what they are going through.

Stop and focus on understanding from their perspective and the best way to do that is to listen.

Don’t stuff the uncomfortable emotions away

As parents we tend to try stuffing those uncomfortable feelings away. Remember that there are no “bad” emotions. The focus shouldn’t be on “getting over it” but on identifying with our child, trying to understand it from their perspective. Allow them to work through their feelings. Equip them with the tools that they need.

There are no “bad” vs. “good” emotions. There are some that are more or less uncomfortable and it is our job to teach our kids how to walk through those emotions in a healthy way without stuffing them down.

We are not giving up our authority as a parent

We are not giving up parental authority by validating their experiences and emotions. Imposing consequenses is not the most effective way of getting a message across. Aligning with them, coming along side of them is much more powerful to helping them understand the expectations and the rules.

It doesn’t undermine your discipline, it forms healthy connections that helps you even more in the future.

We don’t impose wisdom, we impart it

As in Proverbs, we want to impart wisdom into our kids. Understanding comes from listening to our kids and that is what sets us up to impart wisdom to them. We don’t talk about imposing wisdom. We talk about imparting wisdom. We get there by empathizing, listening, and then walking through it with them. Validate their feelings, don’t just try to fix it or make it go away.

The end goal

Remember, what is our end goal? Do we just want kids that behave or do we want competent, mindful, wise adults?

Keeping the long term goal in mind, remember that we are working towards something so much bigger than this current melt-down.

Meet Clair

Clair White has a M.A. in Clinical-Child Psychology, when she is not spending her time being a mother, wife, councilor, and friend, she writes over at her blog, Her passion is to help parents realize their family values and then raise children instilled with those values. She also has a passion to help women experience emotional and relational health.

For some specific resources related to this podcast, be sure to visit the Intentional Parenting page on her website

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