Holding hands

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Try Using Your Imagination

One of the concerns I often hear from parents is that their child doesn't seem able to understand how other people feel. Do you worry that your child won't have empathy? 

The good news is that 80% of communication is non-verbal. The bad news is that 80% of communication is non-verbal. This means that most of what our children learn is based on what we model by who we're being, not what we tell them!

I'm guessing that many of you grew up in families where your feelings (or at least certain ones - say anger, for example) weren't OK for any number of reasons.

My No-Yell Parenting approach teaches that:

  1. Behavior is a child's language to communicate feelings and needs. 
  2. One of your jobs is to help your children feel safe with their feelings and learn to express them in healthy, acceptable ways. 

The challenge is - how do you make space for your child's feelings when it can be hard to even get in touch with your own feelings - never mind be OK with them?

Use your imagination!

Next time your child acts out or is mean or disrespectful, PAUSE...BREATHE (that always comes first, unless someone is getting hurt. See Stop, Drop & Breathe).

Then imagine what your child might be feeling at that moment based on what's going on for them or what just occurred, etc.

As a matter of face, take a second to imagine what YOU might be feeling in the face of your child's behavior. If you have trouble figuring out what you feel, I and many of my clients have found this list very helpful - Feelings Inventory

Imagining what your child is feeling will shift your response from your head to your heart. It will give your child the EXPERIENCE of empathy which is the experience of feeling understood. Then, when you use words to try to teach them about other people's feelings, those words will have so much more impact.