Parenting is rough. It comes with daily frustrations and can easily drive you nuts. Let's be real – we all have lost our patience at one time or another. It's okay! You are not a terrible parent, and your child isn't the worst. Recently, I was experiencing a tough time with my little guy and I remember thinking “when will this get better?!” If you're there, trust me, it does get better. Babies are doing a whole lot of growing, learning, and developing. We just have to keep that in mind as much as possible.
I had a sort of “ah-ha!” moment that made me realize I was being too hard on both myself and my boy. There's a buzz word that's been going around for the last year or so – that word is empathy.
How Empathy Changed My Approach To Parenting
Put yourself in their shoes. Empathy means the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Not only to understand and feel sympathy, but to truly put yourself in that situation and experience or feel what another may be feeling. I started thinking from a place of empathy when it comes to my little guy. I began understanding my little guy's emotional ups and downs rather than becoming quickly frustrated. What must it be like to have your gums aching and not be able to communicate the need for relief or to be extremely curious about something and be told “no you can't see or learn about that”. A couple things – I started really focusing on teaching sign language, and I began taking a breath and asking myself what must that feel like. I was able to do a very quick mental check on myself before I responded to these situations of curiosity, frustration, sadness, etc.
Embrace their happiness, too. When he gets excited, I light up, too. You may notice this wave of emotion with many parents and their babes. When the child laughs and smiles, gets hurt, becomes irritated, the emotion is many times mimicked by the parent. This in itself is not exactly empathy, but a sign of a loving connection with their child. This is how empathy really begins.
Teach sign language. You can start this at a very early age and it is huge with communication. For us, it has eased a lot of frustration and made for a happier baby and mama. Parenting doesn’t have to be a frustrating guessing game. Learning to aid in the development and language skills of your babe is well worth the google search and repetition of signing.
Empathy has also changed my outlook on parenting because it doesn't just help you understand your child, but it helps you to respond appropriately. Often times when a child is throwing a fit, the mother feels distraught, defeated, and/or angry. If you can find the patience and willpower to choose empathy, you could handle the situation with dignity and restraint. A firm explanation without emotion may take the place of harshness. I am hopeful that throughout my years of parenting I will be able to remember empathy and use it to guide me, rather than responding based on my own roller coaster of emotion.
What have you learned about understanding and communicating with your children? Do you consciously implement empathy? Share in the comments!