Parents worry when they have a child who criticizes their siblings.
It’s easy to judge and label the child as being self-centered, not caring, or just plain mean. As a result, when parents react with upset and anger to the criticism, they lose an opportunity to actually guide the child towards more compassion and empathy with others.
As I was working with a mom who has a 5-year-old daughter who criticizes her older and younger brother, I shared with her that it’s crucial to have an ally perspective in order to help her daughter.
If she was angry and shaming with her daughter, as an adversary, her daughter could respond in two ways. 1) react defensively by getting mad back at her mom or 2) she could have felt so bad about herself that she wouldn’t open up and learn from her mother’s attempts at correction.
To gain an ally perspective, I first instructed the mother to start with understanding why she was getting so triggered and angry with her daughter’s insensitive behavior.
Once the mom realized that she receives similar put-down behavior herself, then she could start the process of detaching herself emotionally during these episodes.
Second, I told the mom that this tendency to want to be better than others is going to be one of her daughter’s challenges to overcome.
If the mom can view it in this perspective and think of herself as helping her daughter develop empathy for others, she can become an influential teacher. This means discarding the belief that kids learn by adults always pointing out their mistakes with scolding and making them feel bad. Rather, kids learn empathy best by guiding with empathy. As we were talking, I had a brainstorm of how to visually teach her daughter about empathy since her daughter liked to draw. I’ll share this idea in another post.
Do you see qualities in your children that upset you and you are trying to change? What do you think about letting go of an adversarial position and becoming an ally instead?
©2015 Cynthia Klein, Bridges 2 Understanding, has been a Certified Parent Educator since 1994. She works with parents and organizations who want more cooperation, mutual respect and understanding between adults and children. Cynthia presents her expertise through speaking and private parenting coaching sessions. She writes the Middle School Mom column for the Parenting on the Peninsula magazine. She works with parents of 4 – 25 year-old children. Contact Cynthia at bridges2understa.wpstagecoach.com, cynthia@bridges2understanding,com, or 650. 679.8138 to learn more about creating the relationship you want with your children.