Encouraging kids is part of our job as parents. We all want our kids to have confidence and feel competent. Eventually, all children leave home and they need skills in order to manage their life on their own. When we encourage kids when they are young, we help them gain self-esteem and a positive self-image. We hope that this will help them throughout their lives. Children who are more confident and self-assured are better able to handle the big and little challenges of life. They are able to face their problems and focus on solutions.
There are many ways that we as parents can encourage our children. One way to do that is to name and reflect our children’s negative feelings, in other words, empathize with them.
When we empathize with our kids we teach them to listen to themselves and understand and name their emotions. It is encouraging for kids to know what they are feeling and that their feelings are respected by their parents. Once children know that someone understands them they can move forward instead of getting bogged down by their intense emotions. They will gain the confidence they need to manage their tough feelings. They will feel more ready to solve their own problems.
Here are some examples of how this can work:
At the playground:
Child: “All the swings are taken!”
Parent Using Empathy: “Oh, no. You are disappointed. You were looking forward to playing on the swings.”
Child Thinking Of A Solution: “I will go play on the slide and keep on coming back to check if someone gets off!”
At the doctor:
Child: “I don’t want to get a shot!”
Parent Using Empathy: “Shots can be scary. I can tell you that it pinches for 5 seconds and then it is over.”
Child Thinking Of Solution: “Can you count with me and hold my hand?”
At the grocery store:
Child: “You never let me get anything good.”
Parent Using Empathy: “There are so many good things to eat in the supermarket. It can be tough to see all these snacks and only pick one.”
Child Thinking Of Solution: “Next time I am going to choose something else that I want. Can you write down that I want chocolate cookies?”
Child: “I don’t want to go to bed.”
Parent Using Empathy: “ You wish you did not have to go to bed right now. You wish you could stay up late!”
Child Thinking Of Solution: “I am going to get into bed and tell myself stories.”
In the car:
Child: “This is the longest ride ever. I hate long car rides.”
Parent Using Empathy: “It sounds like you are starting to feel antsy and cramped. Long car rides can be a challenge.”
Child Thinking Of Solution: “I am going to stretch my arms and legs in the seat. Can we listen to another book on tape?”
Learning to empathize with your kids takes time and practice. It is well worth the effort.
About the Author:
Adina Soclof is a parenting expert we really respect. Learn more from Adina about Raising Resilient Responsible Independent Children.