When Sympathy is Sabotaging You
"The first week of school is overwhelming; of course he's going to be having a tantrum."
"A new baby brother is so confusing; I get why big sis is screaming about screen time."
"Quarantine is hard for everyone; extra fighting between siblings is totally normal."
Are any of these statements false? Absolutely not! Are they reasons to relax the rules? Unfortunately, no. This paradigm comes up all the time in my coaching sessions with moms. We want to understand what's behind our kids' behavior, and often the reasons are so understandable and obvious! That is great on one hand because it means we can have empathy for our kids' struggles and we feel solid about what's going on. Unfortunately, that empathy often ends up sabotaging us because we feel it's 'mean' or 'unfair' to punish a kid when we're feeling so bad for them. This is actually a huge disservice to our kids.
When kids' behavior is more extreme than usual, it tends to be because things are usually stressful, new, or just plain weird for them. This is when they need as much of the status quo as we can possibly give them, and our responses to their behavior are the biggest and most important way we can do that.
If tantrums usually result in a gentle trip to their bedroom, that's exactly what needs to happen all the time, even when things are weird. If screen time normally ends at 4 pm, that's exactly what needs to happen even when there's a new sibling in the house. You get the idea...
A mantra I teach my clients is:
Just because a behavior is understandable, doesn't mean it's excusable.
Learn it, live it, love it. Take all that empathy and sympathy for your kiddo and use it, not to make an excuse for your kid or avoid disciplining them, but instead to deliver that discipline with compassion and so much love. This means switching away from a punitive approach to discipline and using consequences instead of punishments. You are not mean for shepherding your child through the realities of bad decisions. And your empathy can be the secret sauce that makes gentle, loving discipline possible.
Want to learn how to make the switch from punishment to consequence, and from excuses to accountability? Set up a free discovery call with me where I get to know your family and your challenges and give you feedback on exactly what to do about it. Can't wait to meet you!