The Empathy Connection

Updated: Apr 16, 2020


Photo by Caroline Hernandez on Unsplash

“Everyone needs to see their specialness reflected back to them

in the eyes of others in order to see it themselves.”

Dr. Helen Reiss

Recently my Tuesday night Parenting group explored the concept of empathy and parenting. Empathy is powerful and crucial in the development of children who will have healthy emotional intelligence - the ability to contain and maintain their emotions which in turn leads to the ability to positively resolve conflicts.

Often as parents, we are so quick to respond to our children who are upset with words - be it a solution, a judgment, a lesson to be learned etc. Sometimes what is called for is to just be there, with a hug, an understanding word even supportive silence. My group wrote about a time they felt an empathic response from someone and a time they gave an empathic response to someone else. One student shared an incident that happened between his children at the playground. His daughter was upset with her brother and stomped off in tears. Dad decided to just go over and pick her up and hold her for awhile. He was moved at how effective this gesture was for both of them. Hi daughter was soothed by his comforting presence and calmed down to a state where she was now receptive to finding a solution to the conflict with her brother.

Parents think of a time that you showed empathy and felt empathy, get in touch with how you felt. Remember the feeling when you are dealing with stressful parenting situations. Dr. Shefali Tsabary, author of Conscious Parenting, gives us an 80 - 20 formula to follow when raising our children. 80% of our time should be in forming connection and 20% of our time spent in correction. Check out the following most common empathy blockers often well intentioned but actually may be fostering disconnection.

The common ones are:

ADVISING ex:. Have you tired to…. Why don’t you try…

CONSOLING ex: It will be all right… It’s not so bad

CORRECTING ex: That not the way… You should do this

ONE-UPPING ex: That’ not so bad my __________was worse!

STORY TELLING ex: When I was younger I ________

INTERROGATING ex: Who, what, when, where, why of it

FIXING IT ex: Can I loan you the money?

EDUCATING ex: Let me show you how_________

SHUTTING DOWN ex: Let’s focus on something more positive.

EXPLAINING ex: You know why you feel this way?

SAME STORIES ex: I know exactly what you mean I once ­­_____

DOWN PLAYING ex: Oh, It’s not the end of the world.

DENIAL ex: It’s OK, nothing’s wrong

REASONING ex: They didn’t mean to hurt you.

THE POSITIVE SPIN ex: When A door closes but a window opens.

CHEERING UP ex: Don’t worry. Have ice cream it’ll cheer you up.

PUT DOWN ex: Don’t be silly. Don’t be ridiculous.

DIAGNOSING/ e x: Oh you are too sensitive.


The following are some simple things that encourage empathy:

- Don’t fall into the empathy blocking traps.

- Give full attention. No multi tasking.

- Honor the silences. Do you need an immediate reply?

- Be aware of your tone of voice, body posture and facial expression.

Are they communicating the desired empathy you are trying to express?

Empathy is a most powerful tool for connecting so take some time to look at what your empathy skills Take note of the empathy blockers and rate your empathy connection.

#parenting #Discipline #ConsciousParenting

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