Friday, August 15, 2008

Using Empathy (#6 in the When Kids Leave You Speechless Series)

"Wise parents know that their kids may someday choose their nursing homes."

(p. 17, Love and Logic Magic When Kids Leave You Speechless, by Jim and Charles Fay)

We all want alife-long positive relationships with our kids. Sincere empathy is a relationship saver. Kids aren't manipulating all the time. Sometimes they are genuinely struggling or hurting and need an understanding listener (even in the midst of discipline.) This book suggests 3 steps for using empathy. (p. 19)

  1. Listen to what your child says and try to imagine how you might feel in the same predicament. (Keep your mouth shut during this step.)

  2. Use a phrase which describes what you think they must be feeling. "This is really FRUSTRATING." " You must be so ANGRY." Or, "It sounds like you are really HAPPY about ______.
  3. Repeat steps one and 2 as often as needed.

When you use this technique, you are not trying to fix a problem or find a solution. You are just listening and communicating that you understand the feeling. That's important!

Child: All the girls in my class hate me

Mom: (imagining how that feels). That must really hurt.

Child (crying): It does. I hate school.

Mom: You hate it and it makes you sad too.

Child: I am sad.

Mom: I am so sorry.

In some textbooks you'll see this describes as "Reflective Listening" because the listener "reflects" the other persons emotion back at them like a mirror. It works amazing at home and work and with lots of other relationships as well.

1 comment:

  1. Loved your entry on "reflective listening!" There is a newly-released book on this subject that I'd like to recommend to you and your readers. It specifically includes a chapter on listening to young children. Many scenarios are provided for the sake of example and it is relevant to any parent or spouse in relating to others. The book is called PLEASE LISTEN TO ME! and it is written by Dick Fetzer. It is one of the best how-to guides to reflective listening on the market today. Written in a style easy to understand and with many practical applications. Find it on any online bookstore or go to


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