We think they’re making excuses. We think they’re making stuff up. We just want them to go back and sleep in their bed. Or listen to their coach. Or get their work done. It’s fine, we tell them. Just give it a try. Wear your jacket, it’s not that uncomfortable. Do your homework, it’s not that difficult.
Do you remember reading To Kill a Mockingbird? Where Jem talks about climbing into somebody’s skin and walking around in it? Well, have you actually done that? Not with someone you pity. Or someone you wish to be. But with someone you aspire to lead and teach and nourish? Someone like your own children?
Your kid wakes up and comes into your room at night…try sleeping in their bed. Maybe it really is scary in there. Watch soccer practice…maybe the coach really is a jerk. How do you think that jacket feels to a kid? Maybe it really is way too hot in there. Did you like doing your homework? Let’s talk about trigonometry. Or Hamlet. Or the Cretaceous Period. Did your parents understand how much you were struggling?
We want to teach our kids empathy and for some reason it doesn’t occur to us to really apply it at home. We just want them to follow our instructions, and we know they can, so when they don’t, we think it’s an issue of challenge to our authority. No, it’s an issue of perspective. It’s us not understanding what it’s like to be them—what it’s like to be in their skin, or sleep in their bed, literally.
See their perspective. Crawl inside it, walk around in it. Then take a step back, and parent accordingly.