Wednesday, June 11, 2008

More on Empathy

Always Lead with Empathy
A dad in "Becoming a Love and Logic Parent" had just learned little bit of psychology and brain research in class. When children or adults are angry or stressed, their thought processes move to the brain stem where functioning is focused on "fight or flight." It's difficult to communicate clearly, rationally, and in a calm manner with a "walking talking brain stem." Leading with empathy when you are talking to someone in distress helps move thinking from the brain stem to the frontal lobe of the brain where rational decision making takes place. If you want a child to learn from their mistakes, empathy opens their minds to that.

The focus of the lesson had been on giving a strong dose of empathy BEFORE administering a logical consequence. Anger, lecturing, and explaining weren't necessary as empathy would "lock in" the learning.

The next day, the dad was taking his guys to soccer practice. They were fighting n the back seat. Instead of yelling he tried out his new skill. First he groaned empathetically and said "This is so sad." The boys stopped arguing to ask, "What's sad?" Their dad was already pulling into a parking lot to turn around. He answered, "I just don't feel safe driving with all that distracting arguing going on. I am driving back to the house so we can be safe. It would break my heart if you were hurt in an accident."

Of courses, the boy argued and pleaded with him. They promised to stop arguing. He listened and responded with an empathetic, "I know" when they said. "We will miss practice! The coach will be mad." He turned his words into gold by sticking to his plan. He never got angry or lectured. He didn't give in to their pleading. The consequence was doing the teaching and he knew his sons were smart enought to connect the dots.

At the next class, this dad was beaming. The very next trip to soccer practice had been pleasant and free from backseat fighting.

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