“You’re spoiled.” “You don’t respect anybody.” “You’re manipulating me and it’s not going to work.” “Every time you’re more terrible.” “You’re intolerable.” “You exhaust me.” “Since when are you so immature?”
How many times, when we’re stressed or tired, do we end up acting this way with our kids? Sometimes we'll say these things without even turning away from the computer or the screen of our iPhones, without slowing down the car or looking up from stirring whatever we're cooking for dinner.
When speaking about your child with a friend, his teacher, your trainer, or the cashier at the supermarket, you’ve probably, at some point, said something like: “He’s so complicated.” “Everything turns into a problem with him.” “He’s the laziest there is.” “He’s so spoiled.” “He’s cowardly.” “He’s so shy.” “He gets so aggressive.” “I’m tired of him being so needy.” “He throws a tantrum over anything.” “He gets sad about everything.” “He has zero tolerance for frustration.”
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? We tend to hang labels on our children, and negative labels at that. How would we feel if they said the same thing to our faces? Why shouldn’t our children take offense or feel bad if we ourselves would be upset to hear ourselves described like this? So asks Felipe Lecannelier, Chilean psychologist and director of the Center of Evolutionary Studies and Childhood Intervention.
With expansive clinical experience with children and adolecents and interventions in the middle of hundreds of high schools and preschools in Chile, Lecannelier has developed a workshop to help parents identify their own emotions when their children have tantrums and to resist those labels that discredit their children and their children's emotions.
While the parents are making this mental change, they calm down and start to see their child in a different light. They can read their child’s mind and understand why he is acting the way he is. And then they can look inside themselves and find the appropriate way to respond, without blame, but without being indifferent either. “If you see a child as the child that he is—not as you wish he were—that gives you space for empathy,” affirms Lecannelier.
The studies that have been done on his workshops in the past six years leave Lecannelier satisfied: the children who have participated show increased emotional security, have more friends, are better liked by their teachers, tend to bully less, and in general improve in their social-emotional development. The children are happier. If they’re loved, they also tend to make their parents and siblings happy. When you're able, in an emotionally charged moment, to read your child's mind--rather than simply his behavior--you're in turn teaching kids how to do the same thing: how to read others' minds, how to empathize.