Why using Empathy helps Teach Responsibility

Children learn responsibility when they are allowed to make mistakes.

Empathy allows us to hold children accountable without anger, threats or sarcasm.  Most people learn through conditioning whether it is through positive or negative reinforcement. However, psychological studies have shown that lessons learned through positive reinforcement stick better than lessons learned through negative reinforcement or consequences. For example, you see someone drop money, you pick it up and give it to them and they reward you with some of the money. Later you find someone’s phone in the bathroom, are you more likely to keep it or turn it in to the lost and found?

Humans learn cause and effect from experimenting with the outside world. They will internalize those lessons if they are allowed to focus on how their choice (cause) created the consequence (effect). If they are loved and supported in every decision (positive reinforcement) instead of shown anger or ridicule (negative reinforcement), they are more open to learning.

This is why Love and Logic parents lock in the empathy before delivering a consequence. It works best if sincere eye contact and touch are used while using a unique empathetic statement (I really feel bad for you!). The connection is the key to creating a loving and logical relationship which is paramount for raising responsible children.

Charles Fay urges us to: “Lock in the empathy first! Before saying, “You may have that toy when you can afford it,” take a moment to show your love. Delay the consequence when you’re too angry to be empathetic. People who use Love and Logic aren’t always sweet and sappy. Sometimes they put some steel in their voices and say, “I’m too angry right now to make a good decision about what you’ve done. We’ll talk about it when I’m calm.”

When it’s over, it’s over. There are few things more damaging to any relationship than taking out the trash…and then throwing it back inside through an open window! When kids experience consequences we must resist the urge to rub salt in the wounds by lecturing after the fact. Use as few words as possible. The most effective people use very few words when things are going wrong.”

To get help building relationship with your child, sign up for the “5 Keys to Connecting” course here.

Happy Parenting!