Tag Archives: parenting

Empathy: Understanding the Child’s Point of View

Understanding the Child’s Point of View

Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s plight, including his or her behavior and the motivations for a given act. It means being able to comprehend the circumstances in which a person acts, and both the intellectual reasons and the feelings (emotions) that help motivate a particular act.

Parental empathy means that the parent is “tuned in” to the way a child thinks and feels in a given circumstance, and that the parent accepts those thoughts and feelings as legitimate age-appropriate motivations for behavior, even if the parent disagrees with those reasons or doesn’t like the way the child feels. This empathic understanding can have a profound effect on how the parent reacts to the child. Let’s consider some examples. I’ll come back to them later.

Some Examples

Example #1. Let’s say a daughter misses her mother who is away on a business trip, and throws more tantrums than usual, and tells Dad she doesn’t like him, or that he never lets her do what she wants. It’s possible that the child’s crying and tantrums might be related to the fact that her mother is not around and she misses her. Empathy means that, if this is so, Dad will pick up on it and be inclined to let her know that he understands how much she misses mama instead of just blowing up at her.

Example #2. Children of separated or divorced parents often present many difficult behaviors that appear to have no obvious rational basis. Continue reading

Teaching Kids Self-Control

Teaching Kids Self-Control

I define self-control as the ability to select an appropriate response to a feeling or thought from among a number of possibilities.

If you accept the assumptions (and conclusions) of the Volcano Theory, and if you accept that control over another’s behavior is a delusion (a belief falsely held), then how are you to “manage” or “govern” your child’s behavior? How are you to “get” him or “make” him do the right thing, or do what you want him to do, or behave the way you “need” him to behave?

The answer to these questions is really quite simple. You can’t. So the best thing to do is to stop trying to do the impossible.

What?!? Stop trying to make your child do the right thing?

Then what about the child who never picks up her toys? What about the toddler running blindly into the street? Or hitting her mother? Or biting her brother? What about all her unacceptable behavior at school, or in the neighborhood, or in your home? What about your teenager stealing, or fighting, or cheating, or cursing?

Again, you’ll stop trying to make her do the right thing. You might think I’m crazy. So, what am I talking about??

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Listening Skill #2: The 5-Question Technique

Listening Skill  #2: The 5-Question Technique

On the one hand, this listening technique is completely natural. When we want to know more, what do we do? We ask. On the other hand, what makes this technique different is that in-between the questions, we listen to each of the child’s responses that we’re getting and

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The Family Meeting

The Family Meeting

Here’s an obvious no-brainer: quality family time together is good for all family members– and fun, too. For example, parents spending individual time with a child, talking with them, reading with them, without a TV interfering, weave bonds of caring, understanding, familiarity, respect, and appreciation. Parents playing games with children weave bonds of relaxed togetherness, and positive attitudes about fairness, respect, rules, agreements, winning, and losing. Parents carting kids around town to soccer games or practice, or to a friend’s house or to the mall, weave bonds of caring and closeness, and provide their kids with informal times of sharing and confiding, listening, and building trust.

These little informal and fun times together could be considered “family time,” a time together when the family–or part of it–comes together in a joyful spirit of unity. These are special and precious moments, the kind we dreamed of when we first dreamed of starting a family. These times have marvelous benefits for all involved. They are often quite informal, unplanned, and spontaneous. And sometimes they are planned and more elaborate, like a trip to the zoo or a movie, or to grandma’s house, or to a park or to another city or state. All of these, and many more times of togetherness, provide the family with an opportunity for a loving “meeting of the minds and hearts,” where real communication occurs, and people listen to each other, and enjoy each other, strengthening their emotional bonds and weaving loving relationships.

Parents can also introduce these special little experiences into their families through what might be called “family meetings,” or “round tables,” where they intentionally invite the other family members to share with everyone what is on their mind. Such meetings are more “formal” than the spontaneous heart-to-heart talks I referred to above, and they have been shown to have marvelous benefits, such as:

  • Building bonds of closeness and respect with each other;
  • Teaching listening skills and simple demonstrations of respect;
  • Strengthening family communication, understanding, and mutual acceptance;
  • Improving self-discipline and cooperation in the children;
  • Teaching problem-solving skills to the children;
  • Teaching goal setting to the children;
  • Resolving family conflicts;
  • Encouraging self-expression;
  • Giving everyone recognition and support;
  • Planning family activities;
  • Making decisions together;
  • Teaching time and money management to the children.

If you’d like to institute a more “formal” family meeting in your family, I suggest that you arrange to have it on a regular basis with a set time and place once a week or once every two weeks, whether you are a single parent or a couple. Here are some ideas to get you started. With the children’s input, determine:

  • Who will facilitate the meeting? (Taking turns might be a good idea after you’ve done it a few times yourself).
  • How/when is the agenda set? You might post a sheet on the refrigerator, or hang up a small chalk board. Allow everyone to contribute agenda items.
  • When will the meeting be held? (If possible, when everyone can attend.)
  • How often will it be held? Once a week at a certain day and time is common, but not necessary.
  • How long will it be? It’s best to start with shorter meetings, and lengthen if necessary.
  • What are the ground “rules” (agreements)? Some examples might include:
    • No arguing, fighting, name-calling.
    • Everyone speaks only for self.
    • Each speaker uses a “talking stick” (for example the salt shaker) which is distributed by the meeting facilitator; that person then has the floor and should not be interrupted.
    • Everyone is free to contribute, but no one is forced to talk.
    • If necessary, the facilitator decides whose turn it is to talk.
    • Everyone listens to the speaker respectfully, with no side conversations or goofing around.
    • Confidentiality: what is said here stays here.
    • End the meeting on time, unless everyone agrees to go longer.

Here are some ideas that you might want to include in your design of an agenda for a more formal family meeting. Modify and change to suit your family’s preferences.

  • Establish the ground “rules” (agreements) and review them at each meeting.
  • Use a round-robin to open the meeting. For example::
    • Everyone tells one nice thing that the person to his or her right did since the last meeting.
    • Each person identifies one fun thing the family could do together.
  • Finalize the agenda (“Here’s what we have… Who has something else to add?”)
  • How has it gone for each person since the last meeting–positives and negatives?
  • Things that need to be decided. Give each person’s complaint about five minutes of attention, and try to resolve the problem. Afterwards, post any decisions made.
  • A fun thing we will do together before the next meeting (optional)
  • Establish the date and time of the next meeting.
  • End with playing a game (optional).



3 Steps to Parent-Child Harmony is my book  that describes in detail the differences between the Old School Parenting model and the New School Parenting model.  Please see these links if you are interested in more information or wish to purchase.

     Learn more.    Buy Now.   Table of Contents & Intro

New School Parenting: Discipline Means Teaching Children to Care

New School Parenting:
Discipline Means Teaching Children to Care

I can think of no more confusing and problematic topic for both parents and professionals than the matter of the proper discipline of children. Before getting into how I approach this most important topic, I want to make two points.

“Discipline” Means Teaching and Learning.

First, the meaning of the word “discipline.” The words disciple and discipline come from the Latin word, disciplina. This Latin word has different meanings, including both “teaching” and “learning.” This makes sense because if a person is really teaching something, then that means someone else is actually learning something. On the other hand, if a teacher in a classroom is attempting to teach a group of rowdy students who are not paying the least bit of attention, then we could hardly say they are learning what the teacher is “teaching.” Since they are not learning, the teacher is, unfortunately, just going through the motions, and not really teaching.

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Parent-Child Harmony

Parent-Child Harmony

 In music, harmony is a major factor. Two or more different notes are heard at the same time, and together they produce a pleasing sound. That’s harmony.

A chord consists of at least three different notes heard simultaneously. If two or more notes are not in harmony with each other, the notes are considered “discordant,” and are usually heard as a sound that is stressed. It might be tolerable, even a pleasant sounding stress, or it might be intolerable, and quite unpleasant.

The point is that each of the notes retains its own distinct and individual sound. It is different from all the others. And it either fits nicely with the others, or causes a stressed, discordant sound. Often, all it takes is for one note to change slightly and the discordant sound instantly becomes pleasingly harmonious.

I speak of harmony in relationships in much the same way. Two or more persons in relationship to each other are distinct individuals, and retain their individuality no matter what. If they get along well with the others, they are “in harmony,” and if they don’t, they are stressed or discordant.

Like the individual notes in pleasing harmony, the individual persons in harmonious relationships blend together and create beautiful sounds that no one of them could make alone. In stressed or discordant relationships, the individual persons retain their individuality, but they are fighting each other instead of blending together in harmony. Often, all it takes is for one person to change slightly and the discord instantly becomes pleasingly harmonious.

No matter who it is in your family that you are not in harmony with, you can make that relationship harmonious by changing yourself in a specific–-but significant-–way. In that moment you consciously exercise your personal power by transforming a relationship of two discordant “notes” into one of pleasing harmony.

In a stressed or discordant parent-child relationship, the parent must be the one to make the change and get “in harmony” with the child. This doesn’t mean you start acting like the child. Please see my other articles in this section to get the details.


3 Steps to Parent-Child Harmony is my book  that describes in detail the differences between the Old School Parenting model and the New School Parenting model.  Please see these links if you are interested in more information or wish to purchase.

     Learn more.    Buy Now.   Table of Contents & Intro

Listening is 90% of Communication. Why?

Listening is 90% of Communication. Why?

What is said here about a parent listening to a child
applies equally to an adult listening to another adult.

To me the evidence is overwhelming. The importance of listening far outweighs the importance of speaking in creating and maintaining good communication. I go so far as to say that it counts for 90% of the communication process–and particularly of good communication. This is especially true of parents listening to children.

The Value, Power, and Results of Listening

Here’s a simplistic way to look at this. We have two ears, two eyes, and one mouth. Four out of five of those organs are for taking information in, and only one is for speaking it out. That’s 80% right there! Beyond that, though, listening has such incredible value and power in any  relationship, and it is difficult to do well, that it counts for a full 90% of what constitutes good communication. Consider the following.

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