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When I first began using tools from Love and Logic, I was only somewhat effective. I was saying all the right things and using natural consequences, but I wasn’t seeing the results I had hoped for. Soon enough, I realized that I was missing an imperative piece of their philosophy – empathy. When I showed my empathy for a child before disciplining, I was much more effective. Why does it make such a difference? We can get some answers by understanding how our brains work.
In the book The Whole-Brain Child we learn that there are two sides to our brains: right and left. The right side is in charge of emotional jobs, while the left side handles logic. When a child is emotional (and they usually are when there is misbehavior going on), the right side of his brain is working like crazy. Efforts to reason with this child in the heat of the moment are futile. We need to connect with him emotionally first. We must use empathy. Once we connect emotionally, the child will be able to calm down. Only when they are calm can we reach the left brain, rational side.
Think about the last time you had an argument with another adult. Chances are, you wanted the other person to understand your point of view. More than likely, when one of you showed a little understanding for the other, the tension eased up. At this point, I bet it became much simpler to find a solution to your problem. People (children included) crave understanding. By showing empathy for your child first, you are setting yourself up for success!
For a more detailed look at empathy (including examples), click here.