Creative Child

3 Ways to Become a More Empathetic Parent

by Rebecca Eanes

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2. Improve your listening skills. It makes sense that, if we want to understand our children better, we must be able to listen well. It sounds simple enough, but there’s a lot getting in the way. How often to do you give your undivided attention to your child, listening without interrupting to offer quick advice to make a judgment? Do you pay attention to tone of voice and body language? Active listening is when you fully pay attention to all parts of communication, including nonverbal cues and tone. To improve your listening skills:

  • Focus on the speaker and don’t interrupt or make assumptions.
  • Pay attention to the details.
  • Summarize what you heard back to the speaker.
  • As questions to clarify points. “What do you mean by…” or “It sounds like you are saying…”
  • Show interest and acknowledgement with eye contact, smiles, head nods, and simple phrases like “go on” or “I’m listening.”
  • Don’t mentally prepare a rebuttal. Really listen to understand.
  • Pay attention to body language.
  • Assert your opinions respectfully if you are giving an opinion. Sometimes your child will want your advice or opinion, and sometimes he’ll just want to be heard. Reading cues will help you determine what he needs.

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3. Work on remaining calm and non-reactive. It’s impossible to be empathetic to your child if your blood is boiling. Learn what your triggers are and how to disarm them so they no longer control your reactions. When you are disciplined, you are able to show up and be the parent your child needs – calm, centered, logical, and safe. What causes you to have big emotions and reactions? Now close your eyes and allow your mind to wander back to your childhood. Think of the times when you behaved in a way similar to what your child is doing that triggers you. How were you treated? What messages did you receive from your parents about this behavior? How did it make you feel? Is that the same feeling that rises in you now when your child behaves that way? See if you can pinpoint the origin of your big emotions around the trigger. By bringing awareness to this, you can begin to understand why your brain is coded to do what it has been doing and be empowered to change the narrative that runs through your mind when you’re triggered so that you can respond rather than react to your child.

Rebecca Eanes, is the founder of positive-parents.org and creator of Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond. She is the bestselling author of 3 books. Her newest book,Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, is more than a parenting book, it's a guide to human connection. She has also written The Newbie's Guide to Positive Parentingand co-authored the book, Positive Parenting in Action: The How-To Guide to Putting Positive Parenting Principles in Action in Early ChildhoodShe is the grateful mother to 2 boys.

 

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