Why is empathy an essential parenting tool? Medina explained in his Brain Rules for Babies book that empathy works so well because it doesn’t require a solution, but rather, just an understanding. Medina uses an example in the story of a 4 year old boy who saw his neighbor crying in his yard. The neighbor had just lost his wife. They boy went to the neighbor’s lap and sat there while the man was crying. The man had found it soothing somehow. The mom asked the boy what he was doing, in which he replied “Nothing” the little guy said. “I just helped him cry.”
When my children gets a boo-boo, no matter how small and I see they are upset, I make sure their feelings are acknowledged and respected. Sure, I say “That’s okay. I see the tiny paper cut (even though it’s barely there),” but I’ll also add on “You’ll be okay; I know paper cuts can hurt.” I remember getting paper cuts often as a kid and boy do they hurt! They hurt even more than a little scrape on my knee when I fell at times. I remember having the paper cut exposed and it getting rubbed with my clothing or whatever I was doing the wrong way; and how it got even more painful that way. One thing I remember from my childhood is that my mom never dismissed my feelings when I expressed I was hurt. She was sensitive to my little ouches. I was already a sensitive kid to begin with; and I think that experience, combined with how my mom handled my sensitivities shaped me to be an even more sensitive mom to my children today.
What are some ways you empathize with your child(ren)? Was it a memory from childhood you can relate to? What are some ways we use empathy as a parenting tool?