Inspiring Your Kids To Cooperate
What does compassion mean in parenting? Is it the same as empathy?
According to dictionary.com, empathy is the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another. In other words, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Compassion is a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.
Recently I discovered an answer to the question What does compassion mean in parenting? with my son Buddy. Here’s the scoop…
My son asks me for a piece of paper. He wants to draw Angry Birds. I look over at him. “Hey Buddy, before you draw, can you do something? Can you think of some kind words to say to your karate instructors? Like what you learned from them and thank them for teaching you. Let’s give them a Christmas card at the dojo party, from all of us.”
He hesitates, stepping backwards with a scowl on his face.
“What is it?” I ask.
“It feels like you are ruining my fun.”
At this point I am tired. It’s a long day. The way he said it shows me he’s not willing to join me and Sweetie in thanking our martial arts instructors. The dojo party starts in a couple hours, and it may take an hour for everybody to express what they want on the card.
What does compassion mean now? How do you love your child when you’re tired, he’s not cooperating, and you’re short on time?
In my most gentle mommy voice, I ask Buddy why he thinks his fun will be ruined. I drill down to discover the root of his desire: he wants freedom to do what he wants. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do his own thing, if he is mindful of other people’s needs and desires too. I challenge him gently. “Do you know what happens to your freedom when you complain about doing something nice for other people?”
I go on. “Complaining takes away your freedom. The more you complain, the less freedom you have.”
“So what can you do if you want more freedom?”
“You’re on the right track.” Buddy’s favorite subject in school is math, so I try using a subtraction and addition analogy. “Complaining about doing something nice for other people takes away your freedom. It subtracts joy from your heart and other people’s hearts too. If you want to add more freedom to your life, try this. Name something you’re glad about. What makes you glad about taking karate? You can write that down on the card if you want.”
The way I see it, compassion extends empathy far and wide. It’s like putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and walking for a mile or two, everyday for a week. What does compassion mean when your preteens aren’t listening to you? Showing compassion to your kids means you can put yourself in their shoes and extend yourself into their life. Do this gently and firmly to lift them up so they can see a different view of a situation. As you do, they get inspired to do as you ask.
Here are 3 ways you can inspire your kids to cooperate when they’re not listening:
- Soften your voice. A big part of this is mental effort. Practice speaking in a “gentle but firm mommy voice.” Record yourself. Play it back and pay attention to your tone of voice. A harsh word stirs up anger but a gentle word turns it away.
- Ask yourself, “If I switch places with my child right now, would I listen to me?” This might be a hard one to answer but try to be honest with yourself. Chances are, if you’re speaking in a tone that doesn’t touch their soft space, you may find you wouldn’t listen to yourself either.
- Ask your preteen questions to get to the root of his desire. Use your most gentle mommy voice that you’ve been practicing.
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