Empathy ->Obedience


Sep 1, 2000




I just had to pass on my new discovery in achieving obedience with my children. I have always heard that making them feel loved made them want to obey you but no where is this more clear than in times of frustration for them. When my kids are frustrated, obedience is the last on their mind. They don't want to stop crying, they don't want to do what they are told, they are just focused in on themselves and couldn't care what I want.

Typical situation
Let's start with an easier one: my 3 year old. It's naptime and he hates that. I tell him it is 2 minutes to naptime and then it comes and I tell him, "Okay, do you want a piggy back ride or do you want me to just carry you?" (in my best optimistic mommy voice trying to give him a little say in the matter). He says he doesn't want a nap. I give the choice again. He again wants none of it. I tell him I will just carry him and he throws himself down on the ground crying. I don’t do my normal reaction which is just get the job done, whether he cries or not, but I get the job done WHILE I empathize his situation. Just before I pick him up I say "You are sad you have to take a nap." He stops crying (SHOCK) and says "yeah." I tell him that I know he is sad (and start picking him up) and that did he know that mommy and daddy LOVE it when they get to take naps. He says he knows. I tell him "You are still sad to take a nap. I know." This does the MOST to calm him and he gives in. Someone gets it and that's enough for him. The empathy "you feel…" does so much toward allowing him to comply. Not every kid is like this, I know. I had one that would cry harder, spouting the woes of the situation, but you never know til you try.

Harder one
My 10 year old doesn't want to clean her room. "this is mostly HIS (the middle brother). I didn't DO it. I don't want to clean up his mess when he doesn't clean up MINE" This child is BIG on things being fair and if they aren't, it is a sign I love the other kid more. That just makes sense in her head no matter how much I SAY it isn't so and try to SHOW her it isn't so. I have several choices when this happens. I have tried 1) making the other kid come in and clean his part (RESULT: fighting over who touched/played with what) 2) tell her tough, it is her room and if she lets people leave a mess, she is responsible for it (RESULT: although this is a fact, this makes her feel it isn't fair, she pouts, nothing gets done, yelling happens… its not pretty) 3)Empathize and then help them to work it out. I tell her "It frustrates you to have all this mess in here that you didn't do" and "It is hard for you to remember to make others clean up the mess they make in your room" and "You want some help cuz you are overwhelmed with how much it is". THEN I call in the other child and I teach her how to talk to him (no whining or yelling allowed from anyone). If they get the request or response wrong (ex: I did NOT!!! MOM - that's not true) then I help them by modeling the right behavior ("I don't remember playing with that, remember you and sarah had it out yesterday?"). It works so much better when they feel understood. They can actually fathom being nice to their sibling when they know mom or dad understands why they are upset.

I guess empathy doesn't EQUAL obedience, but it sure goes a long way to getting what we all want: Kids who feel loved enough to want to do what you ask.



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