Why Is Empathy So Effective?

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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.



  • krish
    10 months ago

    Yes we have to connect emotionally.. empathise..
    Beautiful write up..

  • Lauren
    10 months ago

    After hours of trying to reason with my misbehaving child yesterday, I love this! After he went to bed and we were both frustrated, it was clear I handled it all wrong. Empathy is key! Thanks for this!

    • firmhappymom
      10 months ago

      I’ve been there too! It’s so hard to remember empathy in the moment. Luckily, we get better at it as we practice, just like any other skill. I hope it goes better next time!

  • alison netzer
    10 months ago

    Totally agree. We always try to empathize first. It’s important for the child to understand that you are trying to understand him/her.

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