Instead of 'You're Okay'
Empathy is the willingness to walk in another person’s shoes, for the purpose of better understanding that person’s point of view. You can tell when a person lacks empathy, because they are often self-centered, they struggle to see the world outside of their own perspective, and they are dismissive of another’s feelings. This is often because empathy was not extended to them as children, and so they view the world as harsh and engage harshly.
This is why promoting empathy in infancy and early childhood is crucial for raising children that you want to be around. Tiny shifts in how you approach your child’s emotions today will reap huge benefits as your child grows into adolescence and beyond.
Every time we say, “You’re okay!”, we are telling our children that their emotions are not meaningful, and an adult’s perspective outweighs that of the child’s. This is highly discouraging for the child who clearly wants her parent to understand that she is frightened, scared, hurt, or sad.
Every time we say, “Don’t cry!”, we are telling are children that the way they express their emotions is unacceptable. This is often met with anger and fury, particularly as the child grows older. Empathy starts with radically accepting emotions.
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