“Talking back” in your house was probably not allowed while you were growing up. So how do you get YOUR kid to stop doing it, without feeling like you’re repeating history? When everything feels like a battle, it’s overwhelming. No matter how much you yell, take things away, or debate… your kid still won’t comply with your wishes. If they do, it’s temporary.
So how do you experience success with your child when they refuse to work WITH you? As if the title wasn’t a big enough hint: empathy is the secret.
It’s an emotion we all have, that we can use as a tool to help our children grow. When you shift your focus on acknowledging your child’s struggle to comply, magic happens. No, it’s not coddling. It’s not giving in to them either. As much as you want to say “too bad, so sad, get over it” when they whine about the things you ask them to do, that builds resentment. It strains your relationship. It’s true that it also doesn’t get them to comply smoothly.
If you were asked to stay late at work, and your boss said “I know you already worked for eight hours, but I need your help to resolve this issue before you head out.” You’d be in a much better mood than if they said “you have to stay late. I don’t care if you don’t like it.” It wouldn’t take long for you to surf Indeed or LinkedIn for a new position. The same goes for your kid. Yeah, they can’t go out and find a new parent. But they can distance themselves from you. Resent you. And feel less enthusiastic about doing whatever you asked them to do.
You don’t want that. So here’s an example of how you can use empathy to prevent it. “I know it’s hard to stop playing and clean your room. You wish you didn’t have to do it, but I need you to do that before dinner.” Think of those first two sentences as sunscreen. You put on sunscreen to protect your skin from sunburn. Empathy works the same way. It softens the content of your message, which is “Hey kid, you need to stop doing what you’re doing and do what I say.”
It’s easier for your kid to digest, and when children feel understood, they’re less likely to act out to explain their feelings. I’m not asking you to change the expectations of your child. Completing chores is a reasonable responsibility. But empathizing with your child’s feelings will help them move toward compliance, rather than away from it.
Give it a try and you’ll notice that you’re fighting back a LOT less.
If you want to learn more about validation and empathy, sign up for our parent workshop at: https://thompsonchildtherapy.com/parent-dbt-skills-group/