Listening with Empathy Leads to Daughter’s Optimistic Thinking
Below is a letter written to me by a client of mine: Corey. She had a breakthrough with her daughter, (one of two children, ages 7 & 9)…and wanted to share it with us.
My daughter, Beth, is 9 and very strong-willed which can lead to intense emotional outbursts. My tendency is to try and take away her hurt feelings.
I’m going through a divorce and my Child’s Advocate has advised me to stop doing this because it isn’t helping my daughter.
She recommended Cynthia Klein for parenting support. A key skill Cynthia is teaching me is how to not rescue my daughter and instead listen to her upset feelings.
This allows her to process the whole experience, teaches her that she can get through it, that she can handle hard feelings, and will be able to think more clearly during other periods of high emotion afterwards.
I had a great opportunity to practice this new skill with Beth over the phone, while she was at her dad’s house.
Beth called me very upset because she tried out for the school play and only received a small, non-speaking part. Obviously, she had her sights set on something more grand.
As she cried, rather than going with my gut, trying to make her feel better (which is the communication block of placating)…
I responded with empathetic phrases. Here are examples of what I said:
- “It must be really hard when your friend gets a big part and you only get a small part.”
- “You wanted a big part and you only got a small part.”
- “You practiced so hard and you are disappointed that you didn’t get a big part.”
After a while of continuing to express herself in response to my empathetic phrases, Beth started cheering herself up by seeing the good of being in the play even with a small part. It was amazing!
Beth acknowledged that she was an understudy and that another good friend got the same small part as she did. She was also excited about making the sets. The next day she was happy about being in the play.
In the past I would have tried to cheer her up with statements like:
- “Even a small part will be fun”.
- “Maybe you’ll get a bigger part next time”.
- “You should be happy for your friend”.
These attempts at making her feel better only made her mad at me.
Cynthia has taught me that placating gives my daughter the underlying hurtful message that she doesn’t have the right to her feelings and that she can’t handle discomfort. This is why she would get so angry at me.
I wasn’t helping her deal with her life. I was instead teaching her that she wasn’t capable.
I was thrilled to see how I could change my response to her upset and make such a big difference in how she responded to me and felt about herself. Thank you so much Cynthia.
Consider taking a class from Cynthia. Visit her website: bridges2understa.wpstagecoach.com
©2018 Cynthia Klein, Bridges 2 Understanding, has been a Certified Parenting 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, private parenting coaching sessions, and her book, Ally Parenting: A Non-Adversarial Approach to Transform Conflict Into Cooperation. She works with parents of 5 – 25 year-old children.