The renowned primatologist Dr Jane Goodall said that she found: “the experience of being myself a mother helped me to better understand chimpanzee maternal behaviour: it is hard to empathise with or understand emotions we ourselves have not experienced.”
Empathy isn’t automatic for many of us. That’s not because we’re unkind. It’s because we tend to go through everyday life seeing other people through the lens of our own needs and desires.
When our child is upset we don’t automatically see it from her perspective. We see it from our own. As a result we’ll often see her emotions as inconvenient, overreacting and maybe making our lives difficult.
But if we want our child to have empathy, we need to offer empathy to her. We need to be the sort of person we want our child to be. That means that whatever she says or does, the goal is to acknowledge her perspective with understanding – even though you might not agree with her view.
We can’t be empathetic all the time, every minute of the day. Sometimes we’ll be too distracted or too tired. We just need to be aware and work on increasing the times we can show empathy.