Sometimes the idea of being sympathetic toward your child conjures up images of a sappy mother being manipulated by screaming, whining children who know their every whim will be given in to because mom can’t stand to say no.
Those of us trying to raise adults can easily find ourselves in a knee-jerk reaction to this type of child-centered child rearing. We run the opposite direction and all too often become a bit cold and distant, nodding and smiling at our children without true emotion behind our eyes.
We have to learn to separate the word sympathetic and the word pushover.
“Sympathetic” would describe the parent who is actively involved and interested in his child’s life, interests, amusements, concerns, fears and delights. It is the parent who makes time to ask questions, talk, and respond to a child…Each child needs a different voice of discipline, a different touch of mercy, and a different word of encouragement.
Educating the Wholehearted Child
Think about how you feel when someone actually listens to you. Think about how you feel when someone blows you off. Who are you more apt to take advice from? Who are you more apt to come to with a problem? Who are you more apt hide your true feelings from?
So, how do you lend a sympathetic ear without teaching your children the entire world revolves around them?
Listen – closely and fully. Don’t try to cut your child off midsentence because you are sure you know what they are going to say. Don’t halfheartedly listen to them. Listen, don’t just hear.
Learn to discern. This is a very difficult thing for mothers. We were created to mother. We were created to kiss boo-boos and cuddle little ones. However, not every cry or whine truly needs our intervention.
Is this is a chance for training? If the problem I am hearing about involves something that could be a learning experience for my child, I’m more apt to try to guide them toward taking care of the problem with or without my help. For instance, are they having an issue with a sibling? Rather than take sides, I need to step back and guide the siblings toward ways they can resolve the issue.
Advice or a shoulder? Years ago I had a dear friend whom I would call with my latest parenting crisis. She would start the conversation with, “Do you need advice or a shoulder to cry on?” While our children probably can’t verbalize which one of these they need (unless they are older), we need to do our best to tell the difference and offer the right one.
Mercy, grace, and love. Even if they are trying to manipulate us, our responses still need to show a measure of mercy, grace, and love. Be firm, but gentle.
So, my question to you today is which type of mother do you tend to be? Over-sympathetic, under-sympathetic, or just right?