While empathy is powerful, many of us struggle with applying it in consistent ways.
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Those familiar with Love and Logic hear a great deal about empathy and know that sincere empathy characterizes our approach. In fact, it’s the hub around which our entire approach revolves. In the home or classroom (real or remote), whenever we precede consequences with a sincere dose of compassion and concern, we increase the odds that the child will view their poor decision as the “bad guy” while continuing to perceive us as the “good guy.”
 
Consider the following empathetic statements:
 
   “I love you. This is so sad. When you guys argue and fight in the car, it really drains my energy. One way you can replace this energy is by working together to clean the bathrooms. Will you have that completed by bedtime or by noon tomorrow?”

“I know you love to play videos games. The sad thing is that I don’t feel like I can trust you with the computer right now. What do you think you can do to rebuild this trust?”
 
When we can provide sincere empathy first, is it far more likely they’ll learn responsibility rather than resentment? Does this also affect our stress level, by enabling us to avoid toxic anger, lectures, threats, and frustration? Does it allow us to parent, or provide discipline in our classroom, without feeling guilty?
 
Sincere empathy opens the heart and mind to learning.
 
It enables us to lay our heads on our pillows each night
without harboring regret over how we treated others.
 
Although empathy is powerful, many of us struggle with applying it in consistent ways. Because I can relate to this personally, I’ve spent the last two decades grappling with deep questions over why this is the case. Might some of these challenges have to do with forgetting what empathy truly is and is not? Here are some contrasting examples of what empathy is and is not:
 
  Empathy is about a sincere desire to understand another’s feelings.
It is not a flippant, “I know how you feel” or “I’m so sorry.”

  Empathy  is an honest message of caring.
It is not about manipulating or instilling guilt.

  Empathy  is about maintaining emotional boundaries while showing concern.
It is not about making the other person’s problem our own.

  Empathy  is about modeling confidence and strength.
It is not about demonstrating weakness.

  Empathy  is about forgiving others as well as forgiving ourselves.
It is not about trying to be perfect.
 
The first and primary rule of Love and Logic involves taking good care of ourselves, especially in these challenging times, so we can remain positive role models. As we pursue our desire to become ever more loving and effective parents or educators, does it make sense that doing so involves extending empathy to ourselves?
 
Charles Fay, Ph.D. - BiographyThanks for reading! Our goal is to help as many families as possible.
 
Dr. Charles Fay
 

 
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