As a counselor, having empathy with your clients is a must. It's one of the reasons I decided to work with children way back in college. I felt I had a great sense of empathy with them and understood how they see things in our world.
But now that I have my own child, I realize I get caught up in her fast paced life and forget to look at the big picture. Yesterday when we were at a friend's birthday party at her home, my toddler went up to their water dispenser, one of those Ozarka things, and started playing with the cold water spout. I told her "that is not for playing with" as I was talking to another mom friend. And then a few minutes later, I turned around and saw that she had touched it again, and spilled water on the floor. I set the limit again and she finally listened to me and she came over to help me clean up the spill. I redirected her to another toy and the problem was solved.
BUT, on the way home I was thinking about it and it hit me! That was the first time she had ever seen a water dispenser before and was probably just curious to see what the heck this big, tall, water machine was.
And I thought to myself, "gee, I forget that my little child is only 22 months old and is seeing so many things in the world for the first time in her life, and it must be so amazing to her!" I need to stop and use more empathy with her. Put myself in her shoes and see what she must be seeing.
My statements should have been more, "Wow, you found a really cool water dispenser! And you noticed that when you touch the blue tab, water comes out of it!" She must have been mesmerized by this fascinating new toy she found. Instead of sharing in her joy and discovery, I quickly just told her, "that's not for playing with," as I was too consumed in another conversation.
I should have continued with her excitement and then stated the limit, "I know how fun it must be to explore it, and you can still look at it, but the blue tab is not for playing with. It will spill water in the floor if we do." And then showed her how we use cups to catch the water to drink.
It reminds me of a scene I saw the other day at Target where this mom was in the towel aisle with her barely 12 month old looking little girl sitting in the grocery cart. The child had turned around and grabbed a bundle of washclothes out of the grocery cart to look at and the mom grabbed them out of her hands stating, "those are not yours! Why do you have to be so selfish and think that everything is yours!" Seriously?? I'm not going to judge, but come on, the child is 12 months old. This would be a great example of having a little empathy and understanding that hey, this poor little girl is just wanting to explore.
I know we don't always have the time or the energy to be so enthusiastic and empathic about our children when they are not listening to us, or not doing what we say, breaking limits and throwing tantrums. But I figure if we can manage a few empathic moments here and there, then we are doing a pretty good job!