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Start with Empathy, Continue with Empathy, Finish with Empathy

Start with Empathy
Yesterday I wrote about breathing.
In that post I used an example of how
I helped my one and a half year old niece to go to sleep
by holding her in my arms and breathing with her.

In reflecting upon that memory I realized that
I was also talking to her as part of the process of putting her to sleep.

She was quite violently resisting going to sleep
and it was very late.
Her parents were getting upset and frustrated.

Start with Empathy

I stepped in and took the crying child upstairs
holding her and cradling her in my arms.
I started the process of calming her down
by empathizing with her.

It’s Natural and Good to Cry

I was saying:
I understand that you don’t want to sleep right now
and that’s okay.
I can feel that this is very difficult for you
and the fact that you’re crying is also OK.

Just cry my little one, cry all you need.
Cry in my arms and I will be there for you.

Crying is very healthy and an amazing way
to express your feelings,
so keep crying.

The Feeling of Her Crying Changed

Saying this didn’t stop her from crying,
nor was that my intention.
What it did do was change the nature of her cry.
Instead of the cry being resistant and adversarial
it became an expression of emotion to
someone who she knew was receiving it.

I could feel this shift in her very clearly as
instead of pulling away
she melted into me as she cried.

Continue with More Empathy

Once I felt this shift I moved on to another bit of empathy.

You Know Your Body Best

I said:
My sweet little girl, if you don’t want to sleep that’s okay.
I trust that you know your body best
and you know your needs best.
If you feel you need to, just stay awake as long as you like
and I will stay with you all night long.

I Value, Trust and Accept You

I kept letting her know that I trusted her
and valued her own awareness of her body.

I let her know that I gave her the freedom
to make her own decision
and that I would stand by her
regardless of what that decision was.

How many 1 ½ year olds are talked to this way?
Not many I would venture.
I believe they deserve this level of respect.

Acceptance and Empathy Calmed Her Down

After a short time she started to calm down
and this is when we spent 5 minutes or so
just breathing together.

Staying Present With Her In The Moment

I walked back and forth in the room with her in my arms.
I was not trying to get her to sleep,
not putting her down in her crib,
just holding her as if I was ready to hold her all night.

After about five to ten minutes of this
she was fast asleep in my arms.
I couldn’t have woken her at that point if I tried!

Yet Another Beautiful Example Of How Connecting Is More Effective Than Controlling

It is amazing what we can do if we empathize,
communicate and show trust.
Connecting with our kids is much more effective
than trying to control them.

Our little miracles come into the world with great wisdom.
If we can learn to trust this innate wisdom,
we are also teaching them to trust it.
What better gift can we give to our children?

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