Saturday, May 28, 2011

Empathy and Space

#1 and I got into it last night.  I made a mistake.  He made a mistake. We needed to work it out. I kept my cool and I was trying to communicate with him but his young brain and emotions could not get past his anger to talk about a resolution.  My husband tried reasoning with him but was told, "I am so angry I am going to find a long stick, put my stuff in a blanket, tie it to the stick, put it over my shoulder and walk to New York City!" Oh. Okay.

We did not laugh at him or belittle his feelings.  Nor did we start a banter about the logistics of his plan. Instead we responded to this with, "I understand you are mad.  I would be mad too.  It is okay to be angry. When you calm down I would like to talk to you."  And then we waited.

This is the hard part for me.  I want to discuss, find understanding, practice a better way to do it next time and move on, and I want to do it now.  But then, this is hard for adults.  Why would I expect my son to be able to sort through his emotions so quickly?  He needs empathy and he needs space.

The first thing I need to acknowledge is that he hasn't done anything wrong.  We had a misunderstanding and he is upset about it.  He has not been disrespectful and he does not need discipline.  The lesson here is going to be about how to forgive someone when they make a mistake.  This will take emotional maturity on my part because empathy is not my innate response.

I have to actively choose to tell him that it is okay to be angry. Most people have the knee jerk reaction of anger when someone gets angry with them.  It is a defense mechanism.  We all have done it.  But I am not going to this time.  I am going to resist the urge to duke it out with this little person and show him who is boss.  Do you know why?  Because I know that I am the boss, and therefore, I will do what is best for our family enterprise and not what my selfish impulsive nature wants to spew.

The second thing he needs is space.  He doesn't want to hug me or kiss me good night so I will not force him.  He isn't being rude. He is just not in the mood to be close to me.  Does this hurt my feelings?  Yes.  I went in his room one more time before he fell asleep to ask him if we could talk yet and he said no.  It was so hard to give him the space he needs, but I know that if I force him to talk before his heart is ready, there will be zero fertile soil for the seeds of the lesson to land on.  So, I went to bed too.

At 6:28 this morning my patience paid off.  When I opened my eyes his little face was about two inches from mine waiting for me to wake up.  I started with, "Hey.  Last night...", but he cut me off.  "I know mom, I forgive you.  Will you forgive me?" he asked.  Yes!  Yes, I will forgive you!

I had anticipated needing to reiterate a lesson on forgiveness but by giving him the empathy and space he needed I was instead able to witness him putting a previous lesson into practice.  His little heart had actually been listening.  Who knew?  I wonder what all I have missed...I think I will add a little more empathy and space to my bag of tricks....

1 comment:

  1. What wisdom you possess. Your family is so blessed to have a woman like you! I feel so blessed to be taught again and again by you.