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Communicate with gentleness and empathy

As a parent you want to communicate with gentleness and empathy. Modelling for your children how to be kind and respectful is very important to you. So then why are many of the parenting models we see today the complete opposite?

Reflections on modeling gentleness

Throughout the Bible, we read about gentleness, yet much of the parenting models we see today are far from it. We know that Jesus asked us to be gentle, kind, and loving. So then why are spanking, time-outs, taking away belongings, yelling, shaming, and more considered acceptable methods for parenting? Just because it works short term, or everyone else is doing it, doesn’t make it right. This is sound advice we might give our children.

I feel so sorry for children when I see posts on social media about smug parents who have taken their kids’ belongings or got back at their child for something they did wrong. These petty revenge posts get other parents all riled up thinking, ”yea they deserved that”, but really these parents are acting like childish bullies. What message are you really sending your kids? As a child, I’d feel terrible about myself, learn that I should put others down, and avoid getting caught.

I’ll be honest I was feeling very tempted to try some of those tactics out on my oldest one day. All morning he was avoiding his schoolwork, short with his brothers, and talking back to me. He kept interrupting me and got into pestering his brothers (worse than the usual big bother stuff). All my attempts to correct his behavior seemed to agitate him even more and escalate the problem. Just as I was about to punish, God reminded me of a verse.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient bearing with one another in love.

Ephesians 4:2

Now when you read this in context it speaks to unity in the spirit amongst Christians and can also be applied to your own family. Other versions use longsuffering, meekness, put up with one another, or humbleness. That sure sounds like what my family needs. When I mess up or have a bad day, I would want others to put up with me, bear with my attitude, and love me anyway.

I looked into my son’s eyes and my heart melted. My big tall 12-year-old was just my little boy, having a bad day and something was bothering him. I took him aside and asked what was going on. It turns out he was feeling extremely anxious about an event we were going to that afternoon involving new people in an unfamiliar place. All his worries were bubbling out in his behavior.

Our children need us to love and guide them just as we would want our Heavenly Father to love and guide us. Remember that as a Christian family you do not need to conform to the ways of the world. Your source for parenting advice should always come from the Word of God.

Reflection questions

Are you parenting in a way you would want to be treated?

What things about your parenting style is God asking you to change?

Recall a time when you modeled gentleness and patience.

Taken from the devotional Joyful Motherhood by Meaghan Jackson

Why is empathy so important?

Empathy is the ability to understand the other person’s feelings and to see their point of view. When we focus on empathy it tears down the defences. When a person feels threatened their brain goes in to fight, flight or freeze mode. Children (and adults too) listen when they feel heard and understood.

Communication with your child

  • Check in with how your child is feeling
  • Show empathy and listen
  • After your child feels understood, share your feelings and concerns
  • Pray together
  • Work on problem solving and working towards solutions

Communicate with empathy

This method has been used by many professionals and was taken from Marshall Rosenberg’s NCV practices.

Observe – Share what you see without judgment or taking sides.

Feelings – Have everyone consider how they are feeling.

Needs – consider the needs behind those feelings.

Request – The request can be to yourself or another person

SAMPLE REQUEST

“When ____________ (describe action), I feel ____________ (share feeling) because I have a need for _____________________ (state need). Would you consider __________________ ?”(make request)

“When I see clothes on the floor I feel frustrated because I have a strong need for a clean house, would you be willing to put your dirty clothes in the hamper?”

What does the Bible say about communication?

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; James 1:19

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person Colossians 4:6

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger. Proverbs 15:1

CONSIDERATIONS AND TIPS

  • Consider the age and development of your child
  • Don’t rush into solutions
  • Empathy doesn’t mean you agree, but you can see the other person’s point of view
  • Learn to sit with feelings and reflect
  • Don’t over use commands.
  • Listen more than you speak

When my child is having a hard time I will remember…

If my child unloads their big feelings on me, remember I am their safe place. I’ll not take it personally. It is a privilege that they feel safe enough to share their deepest hurts and feelings with me.

Big feelings can be hard and scary for my child to process. I will try to look for the needs and feelings behind the behaviour first.

Children are more likely to listen once they feel heard and understood. Empathy goes a long way towards winning cooperation.

In order to care for my children I need to care for myself first. This means valuing self care and my own self regulation, so I can be a gentle parent.

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