Pema Chödrön, author of Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living, said, “When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it's bottomless, that it doesn't have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless. You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space.” From that space, parenting takes on a new dimension – one that creates connection, authenticity, and joy.
It is through your willingness to open your heart that you develop your capacity for empathy. With empathy, you will most likely listen more and judge or criticize less. You will enthusiastically get behind your daughter’s desire to play the violin or dance or write a novel. You will sensitively take time for yourself, guide your children to do the same and maintain more balance in all aspects of your life. With deeper empathy, you will probably feel safe enough and curious enough to take a glimpse inside at the beliefs that are very powerful influences both in your daily decision-making and in the course of your life.
With empathy, you are able to understand how your child feels in response to you. If your child tells you he doesn’t like it when you yell at him, you are able to say, “When I yell at you, like I did this morning, that must make you feel hurt.” With empathy, you feel the depth of his hurt. As we expand our capacity for empathy, we become more loving. Pamela Dunn, President of Your Infinite Life Training and Coaching Company, says “Love is the only thing that can transform, and fear is simply a product of not acknowledging our innate magnificence in any given moment.” How do you drop the fear, expand your heart, and gain more empathy?
One way is to look at your relationship with your children from the inside out. Pam suggests that rather than looking at a relationship from a place of need, meaning looking at what we want someone to give us or how we want the other person to be, that we look at what we bring to the relationship.
With your children, instead of looking at what you want your children to give you – obedience, respect – or what you want them to be – smart, creative, honest – begin looking at what you bring to the table as a parent. What can your children count on you for? Let them know that they can count on you to be clear in your requests, willing to listen, willing to spend time with them, dependable, truthful or whatever qualities are important to you. Then consciously practice what you have chosen in your daily life. Practice being clear in making requests, practice listening, and spend more time with your child.
Check out what you are finding most challenging with your child right now. It could be that you wish your child were more focused, more responsible, more sensitive or more trustworthy. Pick the biggest challenge and then YOU bring that quality to the relationship. If your biggest complaint about your son is that he is not reliable, then consciously bring reliability to your relationship. If you wish your daughter honored limits, begin honoring more limits. If you wish your child were more cooperative, find ways to cooperate more with others. You will find yourself modeling what you desire for your child as well as becoming more empathetic. And if you are desiring obedience from your child, is that really something you would like to take on? I think not! You can let that one go!
As Pam says, “Love is the only thing that transforms.” By looking at your relationship with your child from a place of empathy – from your heart – the transformation will begin!