We all have hard days, don’t we? So does your child.
Whether he struggles with school, sports, or friends, there will be days when your child will come home discouraged, angry, or frustrated.
What is your first response when your child comes home unhappy that he struck out three times in one game? Or when your daughter tells you how she stunk in her volleyball practice?
My guess is that you want to do one of two things:
- Put our arm around your child and share nuggets of wisdom about the disappointments of life and how we grow from them.
- Tell her how hard your day was and that you totally understand how she feels.
I’d like to suggest a third option.
Have you ever complained to a friend about a hard experience only to have her give you advice that you really didn’t want to hear?
Or what if you told your husband how upset you were that dinner burned because you were too busy helping the kids with their homework, and his response was, “Next time, set the timer so you can hear it go off in the other room or perhaps you should cook dinner earlier in the day when the kids aren’t around and you can better concentrate on not burning it.”
That response would totally annoy me. Wouldn’t it have been nicer if he’d said, “That was probably pretty frustrating for you since I know you really want to help the kids out. Did you have a plan B or shall we order in pizza?”
I didn’t want a practical plan, I wanted empathy!
Your Child Needs You to Feel Bad
I think that we often do the same thing to our kids. As parents, we are tempted to share our years of experience and wise hindsight to help our kids with their troubles and I do believe there is a time and a place for this; however, as coach and blogger Michelle Icard explains, sometimes our kids really want a lot less. She shares a third option for how parents can respond when their child comes home with troubles.
Michelle tells how her daughter impressed this upon her one night after a hard day of school. After sharing a lot of wisdom and insight with her daughter, her daughter stared blankly back at her and said, “You never just feel bad for me.”
Michelle explains that her daughter’s response was a gift to her because it reminded her that sometimes all our kids want is empathy.
Not a three-point plan for how to improve your little leaguer’s hitting. Not a long-winded story about how you stunk at volleyball when you were her age.
Sure, there are days when wise counsel is what your child needs. But I have a feeling that there are many more times when your child just wants you to feel bad for him.
As a mom who has a weakness for wanting to “fix my children”, I know I’ve struggled with this. Words are my world, so I guess I feel if I say the right thing or give the right advice for every situation, I can make it all better for my kids.
But I think you will find that a little empathy goes a long way: it helps your kids know you love them, you are listening, and that you don’t take their struggles lightly.
So next time you’re tempted to fix your child, consider if the situation really just calls for you to let them know that you feel bad for them. It may be all that they need to hear to help them brush of the dirt, get up and keep fighting.
Don’t waste another minute! The next season of youth sports is upon you.
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