What is empathy and why is it one of the most important skills a parent needs to raise emotionally intelligent children?
June 27, 2022
[Kyle]: Today let's talk about empathy. What is it? How do we do it? Why is it so important in our families? And how is it the key to helping our kids better care for themselves and care for others? So, we want to give you some practical tips today on how to empathize with your kiddos.
[Kyle]: Hello, and welcome to episode 36 of The Art of Raising Humans podcast. I’m Kyle.
[Sara]: And I’m Sara.
[Kyle]: And today we are going to kind of dive deep into what empathy is, because I think empathy is kind of a confusing thing for a lot of people, you know? I think many times, I myself thought I was empathizing and I found out, I wasn't and many times, I think parents are like “oh, yeah, yeah, I got that empathy thing down. Of course, I totally empathize” and--
[Sara]: “Yeah, you're sad right now”.
[Kyle]: “Yeah, you look sad”.
[Sara]: “See? I got it.”
[Kyle]: “I get it, you're sad. I got it, yeah. Yeah, I know you're sad, I--” Yeah, it does-- You'll hear it said it's like “no, that's not really--" It is harder than just repeating that, like you just said, you know? It is kind of an art form it is kind of a skill that I can get better at. So, it's not just something I learned to do, I mean, I have found I’m still growing in it quite a bit, right?
[Kyle]: Empathy is something I’m going to continue getting better and better, no different than the skill of self-control or the skill of being composed or the skill-- Whatever the skill is, you can get better and better at it. So, we want to kind of dive into it more of what it is and why it's so pivotal and so important when you're parenting your kids, okay?
[Kyle]: So, if you-- First of all, Sara, could you kind of-- How would you define empathy?
[Sara]: Empathy is-- I think probably a lot of people are “it's stepping in the other person's shoes; it's understanding what they feel and different than sympathy”. Then somebody's like “oh, you're sad”, you know. Empathy is being in their shoes and knowing that sadness and really sitting with them in their whatever the feeling is, I’m saying sadness, but that's a real easy go-to. But empathizing is really being there with them in that emotion, not just from the outside just kind of looking at it like “oh, there you are in your little bubble of feeling”, but it's joining with them. Not taking it on, it's not this “okay, now I’m going to be as miserable as you”, but it's joining with them and their process.
[Kyle]: Yeah, I think Brene Brown has done a lot of great work in this area, right? So, I encourage anybody who's listening this, if you want to look up a fun video on this on YouTube, Brene Brown's video it's a little like cartoon of empathy--
[Sara]: The bear.
[Kyle]: Yeah, of empathy versus sympathy and she does a great job of drawing that distinction. That lots of times when we think we're empathizing, we're really sympathizing.
[Sara]: Yeah. So, if I can, I just want to-- I’m not-- You need to watch it. I’m going to tell you just a little bit about it, but you need to go watch this, this is a great little video. But there's like the animal down in the little pit of feeling, is feeling a really, really big feeling and at first, the bear at the top is like “oh, yeah, I see you down there. Oh, yeah, you're feeling that”, you know. But eventually as you watch the video, then that one comes down with the other one and sits with that one.
[Sara]: And it does such a great job of showing the difference and what empathy can look like.
[Kyle]: Well, and I think Brene also talks a lot about and this video kind of shows it too. She doesn't specifically say it this way, but she does in other books and interviews is, sympathy like creates distance, it kind of isolates me from you, you know? It's almost like “oh, you're going through that? Oh, I’m sorry”.
[Sara]: “Yeah, it stinks”.
[Kyle]: Yeah, and like you'll feel when somebody's just “sympathizing with you”, you don't feel more connected, you actually feel more disconnected, you know? Because you're like “oh, okay. Yeah, I am” and it's almost like “yeah, I’m sorry you're going through that, you know? At least I’m not. I’m sorry you are, but I’m not. Thank goodness, right?” and whereas empathy is different, empathy should or you would think the outcome would be connection, right? So, when it comes to kids, I think they feel the difference. Kids can feel the difference if you're just sympathizing them or empathizing with them and they may not be able to put that in words, but I know when I-- When I’ve done it well, I’ve seen a shift in me and in them, like somehow their feelings-- I know you said, Sara, it's not taking on the feeling, but I definitely have felt a connection with the feeling.
[Sara]: Yeah, my best word for it is kind of a joining. You can feel where you-- Like it snaps together and there's this joining with your child and I think probably everyone's experienced this where maybe you have your four-year-old or something and their cupcake has the wrong sprinkles, you know? You thought you're doing this great thing, you're getting cupcake with sprinkles and he's like “no, I wanted the gold sparkle sprinkles!” and it's all a big mess and so, this is like “oh, you got the wrong one” and it's so hard to slip into that because the adult brain is going “there are sprinkles”.
[Kyle]: “Get over it”.
[Sara]: “Who cares?”, you know?
[Sara]: And so, you feel yourself kind of trying to do empathy, but that was more sympathy. Empathy is where, you know, you take your child in and you can “I’m not upset about the sprinkles, but I can think of some other devastating thing where I have been truly sad”. Rather it doesn't have to be the same thing and then there's this joining that goes “oh, that's what you're feeling” and your child feels when, like you said, they can tell when it switches to that “oh, you know devastation too”.
[Sara]: “You know extreme sadness too, just like me and this cupcake” and you don't even have to tell them what it's-- You know, you just have-- It's just is coming to the space of “oh, yeah, I felt that. Oh, I know, that's really hard” and something in you, you do feel this shift inside of you and they feel it. The moment you have left the sympathy of “oh, yes, you and your sad feel--”. You know, you have joined them in that and you know and you just sit with them. So, you're not taking it on, but you can relate and there's this joining that happens and you do. I think when it really happens, you see your child's body just kind of, it's like a sigh.
[Sara]: You know, if you've had a friend come alongside you and when you're gone through something really hard, rather be a horrible co-worker and you're just ranting and raving, you know, about “oh, this-- I can't believe what this-- This thing that just happened and I’m so mad” and when you have somebody really empathize with you, there's something inside of you that can take a deep breath now.
[Sara]: There's this “oh, okay, somebody's with me, they're feeling this too even though they weren't there” and so, we as adults can feel it and that's what happens with this child, where they just kind of can now relax that somebody is feeling that too. Somebody is with them too, they're not alone and that is when empathy has really happened.
[Kyle]: Yeah. Well, in the word I was thinking of as you said that was “compassion”, you know? Compassion means passion, means suffering and the cope with, suffering with, you know? Is that that's what I have felt kind of bubbled out of my empathy. When I empathize well, was I felt compassion for them. Even if it's something as silly as the sprinkles, you know? “Oh, man”. That'd be so like-- I tell parents all the time, I’m thinking of-- Lots of times you put yourself in your three-year-old, five-year-old, four-year-old shoes. They can't do a lot on their own, you know? They can't get a lot of things they want, so they-- At that age they start to desire things that maybe are different than what you want them to have, but they can't get them. So, they somehow have to get you to get them, you know? And I-- When I when I think about that and I put myself in my kid's shoes, it's like “oh, I feel such compassion because that would really be hard”.
[Sara]: Yeah, there's no control.
[Sara]: Life is largely out of the--
[Kyle]: They have to go all over the place to this appointment, to that appointment, to these-- You know.
[Sara]: What they wear, how they spend their time, when they go to bed. Oh, yeah, there’s--
[Kyle]: Yeah, and they have very little say in it and very little power to shift it, you know? So, like the only power they have is to throw a fit and so, in these moments we’re like “oh, yes, I see that” and kind of feel that compassion and when you come with them, I like how Dr. Gottman when he talks about this, he talks about attuning with your kids, you know? And I loved that picture when I read that in his book, “Raising Emotionally Intelligent Children”. It's a great book by Dr. Gottman, but he talks about almost like a really good-- The song, you know? Like if we're-- There's been times I’ve been feeling a feeling and it seems like no other adult I’m talking to seems to get it, but I’ll turn on a song and the song got it. Somehow this musician who wrote this song was feeling what I was feeling and even though I don't know this person, even though I’ve never met them, it's like I feel like they get it, you know?
[Kyle]: And I’ll feel myself shift out of that deep sadness or whatever it is, deep disappointment and I’ll feel like “oh, cool, I’m not alone in it. At least this guy gets it or this lady gets it”, right?
[Sara]: Yeah. I think attunement; you brought it up with music. Attunement is that, tuning in and when as a parent, I don't hear this when talked about a lot, but I remember coming across to early on. Actually, before we had kids, as I was learning about parenting and working with families with little kids. Learned about attunement, where you're tuning into your child. So, if you think about it with a baby, they can't communicate, so you have to tune into your child's “what is their body language? What is this cry?” and you'll hear, you start to learn “oh, well, this cry means they're hungry. Oh, this cry means--” and even now, sometimes I can hear my child cry and I think “oh, well, I mean that's the cry that they're-- I mean, they got her, but they're gonna be okay”.
[Sara]: Or “no, something's really, really wrong” and so, I think we kind of think about that maybe with babies. But even as they get older, even in the teenage years, there's moments where you probably feel tuned in to your child and it's really this like, just like you turn the knob, you know? I don't know, I guess nowadays they don't do that.
[Kyle]: I know, they don't do knobs. Yes.
[Sara]: You all are old enough to where you had-- You had the radio station and you had that--
[Kyle]: Yeah, you're trying to get it just right. I know, you’re trying to tune in.
[Sara]: And you're having to tune in and then all of a sudden, it comes through clear and crisp and you've tuned in.
[Kyle]: Even older is trying to get the tv channel you want, you're trying to get the ears right and then you're like “oh, we finally got-- This thing came in clear!”.
[Sara]: That's how old we are.
[Sara]: So-- But that's what it is with your child, where you're kind of off still a little bit. You're kind of seeing where they're at, you're kind of seeing what's going on with them, but it's still fuzzy. You're not really-- You're not there, you're not fully connected and tuned in and then there's moments where you just click and you just feel this “now, now we're there, now we have this clear channel and it's coming through” and empathy and attunement as you can imagine, then go very-- They go hand in hand, they're very important to each other. Because if I’m going to empathize, I need to be tuned in to you, what's going on with you, what's going on inside of you, what's in your body, what's in your emotions, what's happening in there and I want to tune into that and that child feels that tuning in and then they can relax.
[Kyle]: Yeah. Also, the word I heard in there that kind of goes on is “being understood”, you know? It seems like what you said, from the time they're born, they’re a little baby, you're doing this thing of trying to attune to them and feel empathy for them, right? But it's also understanding them, it's understanding what they're trying to say to you, you know? Even when they don't have words and the more and more you can do that-- I hope the listeners are getting that. The more and more I do that at a young age, I mean, one of the most common complaints teenagers say is “my parents don't understand me”, you know?
[Sara]: They're saying “there's no attunement”.
[Kyle]: I know, and they'll say to me like “I was saying one thing and they completely came back with a lecture about something else, I wasn't even talking about that and they just sit there and go ‘blah, blah, blah, blah, blah’, you know? My parents don't get it”. I mean, how many kids will tell me they just kind of close their heart off to their parents, because they're tired of their parents not understanding what they're trying to say, you know? And I think some of that starts in the early years of not making a habit of doing that, not making a habit of going-- Even when you don't have words, you're making sounds, you're doing nonverbal things. “I’m going to try to attune to you, so I can understand”. Because each kid is so different, understanding how each one communicates, how each one cries out, how each one says “I need help”, how each one says “I’ve got it”, right? And you can start to get each kid has a different way of conveying that and the more time you spend empathizing, the more pathways you make to understand them, the more capacity you create to understand them and attune to them, no matter what age they are.
[Sara]: Yeah, yeah. You know, when your kid comes in the door and they drop their backpack and maybe they head up to their room or they just walk over to the fridge and their body's closed off and they're-- You can see the tension. That's an example of an older kid and attuning to “whoa, I’m picking up on something here”, but it is a practice, I do feel like it's something where-- I don't know, that lots of us maybe experience that in our own lives as children, you know? We think “oh, we've got to resist” or “hey, you're not supposed to drop your backpack there. Get it up on the--”, you know and, in that moment, we're not attuned to them.
[Sara]: Attunement. I kind of got all over the place in my [Unintelligible]
[Kyle]: No, you're right! Yeah, I think what you're saying is that we get focused on the action and we're not really attuning. We're just going “I don't like that action, I want that to stop” and the kid's like “there's other stuff going on here!”, you know?
[Sara]: And the burden is kind of on us.
[Sara]: Even though you would like your teenager or your child to be in that part of their brain where “hey, mom and dad, I had a stressful day today and all this stuff”.
[Kyle]: “I felt rejected today by my peers”.
[Sara]: Yes. It's really kind of on us to be when we're-- We need to attune to them.
[Sara]: And that is something the more we practice it, the better we get at it and is an intentional process because we got stuff going on too.
[Kyle]: We do.
[Sara]: It is not easy, it is a practice and it is a skill to build, attune into your child and where they're at, but when you do, it's almost magical what can happen and the empathy that can come and what happens in your relationship when they feel that attunement.
[Kyle]: Well, and I would say, Sara, you naturally just do this better than I do. It's a real struggle for me, you're more attuned-- In tune to the kids, because I think part of it you did such a great job when they're little and babies and I didn't do that as much with them as you did, which I think is a fault that a lot of dads fall into. But I also think there's, you know, since you are-- What I have noticed in my effort to get better at it, is there's been moments in my practicing to do it, that I have completely attuned with them and what I found-- The indicator that I was doing it well, was not only I’m a storyteller, so not only would I feel the feeling that they're feeling, I go “oh, whoa, I just felt that feeling”, instead of judging it and going “why are they having that? That's ridiculous”, which is my typical normal response. I’m just like “oh my gosh!”, like “get it together, you know?” and so, I go “wait, wait. Oh, I’m--” I’m holding it with them, I’m holding this feeling and then like “oh my goodness, I remember when I felt that way too”.
[Kyle]: And then like a story will pop up my head and maybe in that moment, I’d even say “oh, I felt just like that one time” and the kids might say “when?” and then I tell them a story and they're like “you do get it!”
[Kyle]: And Gottman calls that “feeling felt”, that the kid feels felt by you, you know? And you both are joining together in this moment of conflict. This moment of big emotion becomes a moment of intimacy, that you actually join together in that moment, you know?
[Sara]: And that's where shift can happen, that's where all the sun-- The sun can shine again and pathways open up to going somewhere. That's what's so amazing about a attunement, empathy, you know? The little babies stops crying because it's mom is holding it and it feels tuned into, you know? The needs are met, the child is being seen. It's where our children now that they're older, they're really, really upset and then you just see it kind of fall off their shoulders a little bit, because they're not carrying that burden alone and they pour out the story to you and even if you don't make it better, they were felt, they were held. It was held together with somebody, they're not alone in this world.
[Kyle]: Yeah. There's three important things. So, I’m just like making this up in my head right now, because you're talking and I want your feedback. There's three important things I’m thinking about empathy, okay? So, one is empathy is not something your kids are born with, right? So, kids don't naturally empathize with others, they naturally think about themselves, right? So, the ability to get in somebody else's shoes has to be modeled, it has to be taught, it has to be shown, right? So, if we actually want to raise kids who really care about their friends’ feelings and care about their siblings’ feelings and care about even ours as parents, right? A lot of times like, it seems like our kids just care about themselves, you know? We don't want to raise kids that are selfish and just think about them, them, them, right? Is we've got to emphasize empathy, we've got to practice it, model it, help them feel it and then you're going to raise kids who are able to feel it with their friends and their siblings, right? I mean, in--
[Sara]: Yeah, I think they're kind of born in survival mode, right? And they're more egocentric. You've heard the term egocentric, where they're not really aware of their impact on the world and the cause and effects things. They're just thinking “I’m hungry right now. I want that toy right now, so I’m going to take it from you” and yeah. So, as we empathize and show that to them, then they can turn to the world and turn to others and do that too. They can think “oh, what are you feeling? You're feeling something maybe different than I’m feeling? And how do I--? How do we do this?”
[Kyle]: Yeah, I’m even thinking of how many four-year-old, like pre-k teachers, you know? The parents will bring-- They want help with their four-year-old and the pre-k teacher will say their kid is doing aggressive things at school and they're not showing any empathy, you know? And I’ll typically want to know, how is the teacher showing that kid empathy? Because I think if a kid isn't showing empathy, it's probably because he needs to be shown empathy, you know? So, if your child isn't showing empathy and what I mean by that, isn't seeming to care when he does hurtful things. Don't give in to fear, you're not raising a psychopathic kid, just know that the kid isn't naturally empathetic, the kid is naturally about surviving themselves and keep-- So, when they do something and then you get mad about it, they're naturally going to protect themselves, they're not going to go “oh--”. So, it needs to be taught, it needs to be modeled. You got to show them empathy, right? So, that's point one.
[Kyle]: Second point I have is, I love how Becky Bailey from Conscious Discipline says “empathy organizes the brain”. So, it's the skill you use to help the kid organize the brain. So, in in the past we've talked about three different parts of the brain, kind of the upstairs/downstairs from the brain stem, the fight/flight or freeze part, to the limbic system, the more emotional part and then onto the prefrontal cortex. So, in order to give our kids empathy, you and I need to be at the prefrontal cortex. We can't be questioning “am I safe? Am I loved?”. We've got to be secure that “I know how to help my kid right now. I’m so glad my kid came to me with these emotions, because I can help them”, right? So, if I’m doing some self-care, I’m taking care of myself and I’m getting-- I’m in a good place and I’m in the prefrontal cortex, typically I think a lot of parents do this naturally in a sense of, if they're in that good place, they will come along and they'll show compassion.
[Kyle]: A lot of times we're sitting in the limbic system, we're sitting in our own emotional place, so when the kid comes with their emotions, we're unable to do it, you know? Because we're not-- So, I’ve got to realize that my inability to empathize, to care about what they're caring about, is probably because I’m in a spot, a place in my brain that's making it more difficult to do that. So, I want to help organize my child's brain by first getting me to the prefrontal cortex and then, you actually start to wire the kid's brain, like you're saying, Sara, to go back more to that. That when they have the big emotions, they know they can go get help and that you'll empathize with them and we'll move through it. To then once they get to that prefrontal cortex, they can see it differently, you know? It's not so overwhelming.
[Sara]: Yeah, yeah, I really want to jump on and you said it and I just want to emphasize it even more. There's moments where, sure, I’ve looked and I thought “oh, now we need to have a meltdown” or “oh, you have to be so upset about, this is not the big--”, “Do you realize there are kids who are starving in this world?” or you know.
[Kyle]: Yes, there's horrible things going all over the world, yes.
[Sara]: And whenever that happens, if we can pause and just go “oh, oh, wait. This is me; this is me, don't-- Try not to let the words out of your mouth and if they do, that's okay, we can repair”. But you realize that it's not going to help you, it's not going to get anywhere. Any of those kind of resisting the emotion is you and your limbic system, not your prefrontal cortex. So, you want to move back to that prefrontal cortex and join back with your child.
[Kyle]: Yeah, and then the third thing I was thinking is empathy helps raise resilient kids. So, if you're wanting to have a child who's resilient, who can get knocked down by waves in life and failure and they can bounce up, the reason why empathy helps is, why? Would empathy help resiliency?
[Sara]: Well, you just-- You know, you're not alone.
[Sara]: And the more-- When you were saying how as we practice empathy, as we practice getting to our prefrontal cortex, then they do learn it, they watch you. They're watching you more than you-- More than your words, they're watching your actions and so, the more they see mom and dad go back to their prefrontal cortex and join with them and empathize with them, then the child wires their brain to do that and so, then when hard times come, when hard things hit, their brain is wired for that empathy and that relationship and that connection to other people and I don't know, were you going to do the ice story? The ice--
[Kyle]: Oh, no. I could, that's great. No, yeah. So, there was a study in a book called “Why bad things happen to good people?”. People put their feet in ice water and they time how long they can endure the pain of that ice water and they found if somebody was in the room enduring that pain with them, like just with them, not their feet are on ice water, but those people could endure it twice as long and so, the ability to be resilient in the face of hard times and difficult things. You know, Dr. Becky Bailey's passion about doing this in schools and helping schools get through difficult times and we are in difficult times. There's a lot of difficult things going on in the world, that it's actually through empathy that we can be resilient.
[Sara]: It's that connection, it's having somebody there in your hard time. So, it's not even that the person was rescued from the ice water.
[Kyle]: Yes, exactly.
[Sara]: And it's not that, you know, with what what's happening in the school systems, you know? She's not even saying “make everything better for everyone!”, you know? It's really just, if you have a person who's attuning to you, who's empathizing with you, who is there in your story, who's a witness and holding it with you, you can come back to-- You can come back from hard things, you can move forward, they can be part of your story--
[Kyle]: You can overcome.
[Sara]: Yes, but they're not the end of your story, they're just a piece and your ability to come back and have the life you want and all those things, come from that relationship.
[Sara]: And it's really cool, because you don't even need a lot of those. You don't need 50 different wonderful people; you can have one.
[Kyle]: Yeah. So, okay, I want to wrap this up in the last few minutes. How do you do it? How do you do empathy? You know? Like I’m thinking, I’ll give my thoughts and then just, when I was trying to get better at it, because I feel like I’m naturally kind clunky at it, is I would just purposely try to mirror back what they were feeling, okay? So, if the kid threw it, I’d just say “wow, you seem so mad” and sometimes I wasn't totally-- I would say it in an attempt just to connect with them, right? “Oh, and then you didn't like that? Oh, and then you picked that up and you threw it? Oh my goodness”, you know? Or “oh, now you're really sad about that because you didn't get that thing you wanted, that is really hard” and I would say it and sometimes it would just sound like I’m going through the motions, right?
[Kyle]: I was trying not to be sympathizing, but I was trying to really connect by giving them feedback, mirroring back what they-- And I find in that process somehow, I would start to go “oh, that is kind of sad, I could see why you'd be so mad” or “that is so hard to let go of that thing” or “you wanted that gift and you didn't get it. Oh, that's so frustrating” or “you wanted that cookie and you didn't get it”, you know? I like how Dr. Cohen; he has a book called “Playful Parenting”. He talks about empathy can look different, empathy could be like “oh, you're so mad and you really want to hit something. I tell you what, grab a pillow and let's have a pillow fight”, you know? And like then you attune with them by being like “Oh, this chaos, let's get it out together”, you know?
[Kyle]: Or I remember when Brennan used to get upset would growl at me when he was like three or four and one time I was like “oh, I think empathy could look like this”. So, I just growled back at him and said “I’m gonna eat you” and then I ran after him and it was amazing what happened. By the time I caught him, he was laughing and then he started crying and then he just said “dad, I thought when you told me I couldn't do that thing that, you were just saying I couldn't do it the rest of the day” and I’m like “oh, no, I wasn't saying that at all, I was just saying ‘let's put it aside’” and it was so cool how through the play-- So, it doesn't have to look one specific way, but the goal is to “I want to connect with the kid and help the kid know I get it, I feel it, I understand it”, but I’d love to hear how you do it. Have you purposely tried it?
[Sara]: Oh, I love about those too. You can tell you're not in the right space if your goal is to shut down the emotion, you weren't growling with him to make like “I’m going to stop you from growling”, right? Because your kids can be like “oh, you're just resisting my feeling” and so, it is coming to them from a place of “I’m not here to resist what's going on, I’m here to actually see it and join it”.
[Sara]: And so, you got to make sure. For me, I have to make sure inside of me that's really my goal, because if it's just like to hurry this feeling along and get out the door because we have somewhere to be, it's just not gonna work. One thing you actually do that I love that I’m gonna point out--
[Kyle]: Sweet! What is it?
[Sara]: Is when if it's something they're really disappointed in or they really want or you'll just get right down with them at eye level and you'll say “oh, what was it you liked so much about it?”
[Sara]: And just let them tell you why it was so special, why it was so important. Let them tell you and you just listen. And then you go “oh, yeah, that sounds really cool, that would have been really neat to do that” and that gives them that space to pour all of that out.
[Sara]: And when you do it and you're coming from that, you're really open to them and I can see that and I think they can feel that.
[Kyle]: Uh huh, and I really feel it too, because I am really curious, like “what did you think was gonna happen here?” and so, like coming with that openness, I do like doing that. There's also in that technique, is also the kind of magic idea, we imagine with them. Because I remember as a kid, Sara, like knowing-- Like if I wanted a He-man toy; once again our age. I wanted a He-man toy, I knew my parents couldn't afford it, but I would throw a gigantic fit at Toys R Us, so my parents would remember to buy it for me and I just look back and think if my parents would have just empathized with me “oh, what is it you want about? How important--?”, I probably would have been able to let that go. Instead, I was holding it tightly with my fists and saying “well, I know you're not going to buy it now, but I’ll make you buy it for me for Christmas”, because you [Unintelligible] and so, so many times they're just imagining it with them and so “tell me how bad you want that? Dude, that does sound awesome!”, you know? And then you'll see it organizes their brain and allows them to let go of it.
[Kyle]: And not right there they're like “I have to have it now! I need it if! I don't get it, I’m going to die!” and then they go “wait, you get it? Okay, I can let it go”.
[Sara]: I think another really important one is sometimes it's no talking.
[Sara]: And it's really just sitting with them if they're-- Just hugging them and all of a sudden, they just start crying.
[Kyle]: That’s so good, yeah.
[Sara]: I remember even with tantrums, Abby was more big emotion when she was younger and sometimes all I would do, is just pick her up and hold her and at first, her body would be all tense and almost like “oh, don't hold me!”, but she knew I was safe. I mean, I’m not like fighting her to hold her, I’m not tackling hers, I just want to make sure that, you know, I’m not saying to tackle your child into--
[Kyle]: “You will take my hug! I love you!”
[Sara]: And so, at first-- But then eventually it would shift from the screaming upset and I would say “oh, you're really mad” or “You’re really-- You don't want to nap” or whatever, it might have been at four or even when she was older, but just-- I would just say maybe a few words and then I just be with her and then, the anger would shift to sadness and then shift to calm and then, we would move through it--
[Kyle]: Yeah, that’s beautiful.
[Sara]: It reminds me of that book “The Rabbit Listened”.
[Kyle]: Yeah, yeah, great book on empathy.
[Sara]: I think we have mentioned it before.
[Kyle]: I think we have, “The Rabbit Listened”. That’s a great book, yeah.
[Sara]: Yeah, yeah, get it at the library, look it up. It's a children's book, but honestly, I think parents would do well to read it, you know? Because it does a great job of just modeling all the different emotions in “The Rabbit Listened”. So, it's a good one to kind of visually see.
[Kyle]: Well, I know there's even so much more to talk about this, Sara, but I just really loved kind of diving a little deeper into empathy. I think it's such a powerful concept and so helpful in our family, something I definitely needed to grow in. It's not a skill I came into our marriage really doing particularly well and I even think that's how I got better. I was practicing with you, you know? Just seeing how you empathize with me on my rough days and going-- That kind of felt good, she didn't tell me how to fix it, she didn't tell me how I did it wrong, she just listened and then I found I would shift to a better part of my brain and find better solutions, you know? And so, I think--
[Sara]: And that, that right there is really big for teenage years, where they're not actually wanting you to fix or a solution, you know? Little kids do, but older kids, you actually lose them if you move into that space.
[Kyle]: Yeah. So, I just think getting to practice it with you. So, I encourage-- I hope this helps the listeners, I really encourage you just try practicing it, just noticing “am I sympathizing or am I empathizing?”. Do it with your spouse. If your spouse is game, just practice intentionally kind of mirroring back, what you think that they're feeling or going through in that moment and seeing how that shifts in you, seeing if you can attune or are you attuning well to kids and we would love to get feedback from you on how this is helpful to you. Maybe ways in which this opened your eyes to what empathy is. So, feel free to go on there, you know? We've got-- It's been so great to see some comments. Lately I’ve gotten some people sending us messages through email@example.com to send some comments. Even people some reaching out through Facebook and stuff like that through Parenting Legacy, which is our counseling side; just giving us comments. So, all those spaces are great to give us feedback. We'd love for you to give us a five-star review and share this to people who maybe need some help in understanding empathy better. So, thank you for your time today and listening to us chat about this and I just hope you have a beautiful day.
[Sara]: Thanks for listening.