Thoughts on fostering growth through empathy
- a blog for parents -
If all children need the same thing - to develop a secure attachment with their primary caregivers - but have differences in how they present those needs, how is a parent supposed to figure out what they need?
The answer to that question is the title of this blog post: by "becoming a detective".
Like a detective with a magnifying lens that allows them to see more clearly, becoming a detective to determine what your children need in the moment requires getting a hold of somewhat different "lenses" through which to understand the situation; paying attention to what you see, hear and "sense".
In truth, most parents have considerable skill at being detectives...and exercised those skills consistently when their children were infants. Most parents figure out when infants need feeding, diapering, soothing, sleep, play and so on fairly early in their child's life. The problem arises when they become toddlers and we shift from tuning in to their needs and start expecting them to "use their words". Unfortunately, this also happens at a time when they tend to challenge us with tantrums to "act out their feelings" in rather dramatic ways....in part because they don't have all the words to begin to express themselves adequately.
So what's a parent to do?
Continue to be a detective long after you think you don't have to anymore. But, instead of just following up by meeting their need, verbalize your own understanding of what is happening. Use YOUR words to tell them what you think may be going on for them. Take a best guess based on your honed ability to know your child's needs. It will probably hit the spot more times than you would think. In the process, they learn the words that they could use the next time they have those kinds of needs to express.
Give it a try and see what happens!