La Tela di Carlotta
it en es

How I show empathy to my children

Jan 2, 2021

Much of my “educational method” is based on teaching empathy to my children through my example.

Empathy is something I had to learn myself in order to use it with my children - especially during crisis (the so-called “tantrums”), when they seems to cry for nothing, when I don't understand them, when it feels like they’re challenging me…

Those are the times when, if I show empathy, they learn it. They learn it for the next time, for when they argue with their siblings, for when a friend .

If I am not a parent who learns to be a parent, I cannot expect my children to be people who learn to be people.

How I show empathy

Here are some of my favorite ways to model empathy for my kids, especially in a moment of crisis (when they cry, yell or hit):

  1. Silence and breathe: sometimes just stopping, offering our presence and keeping our breathing calm is enough. If they let me hug them, I hold them and slow down my breathing: my calm is their calm.
  2. A gentle touch: touch their arm, back or hand. Sometimes, our physical presence communicates beyond our words. Also, I try to use as few words as possible when your child is struggling: if I notice I'm talking too much and telling them off, I stop and say, "We can talk about it later, would you like a hug now?".
  3. Listen actively: sometimes kids don’t need our words, they need us to listen to theirs. A good way to start is, "I hear you", "I understand you", even if you don't.
  4. Make sounds: sometimes a simple sound like “Oh”, “Mmm”, “Ah-ha” lets our kids know that we are listening and that we "get it”. It also helps to take time while we think what words to use.
  5. "Tell me more about that": when they're calm enough to talk, showing interest in your child’s words speaks volume. It means “I’m interested, I’m listening, I care, I love you”. "What did you do?" might start the conversation with the assumption that the child caused their own emotion. "What happened?" might lead to a conversation the child is not ready yet to have. "Tell me more" is neutral, the child is in control of the conversation.
  6. Describe their emotion: by naming the emotion, you help your child understand what they’re feeling. “That sounds _____ [overwhelming, disappointing, frustrating, sad, scary]”. It also encourages them to think about their feelings (They might say, “No, I'm not *angry*. I’m *sad*”) which engages the reasoning part of the brain and helps them calm down. When you name the emotion, you're more likely to tame it.
  7. Be your child’s “interpreter”: translate their emotions and reactions. “You didn't want to [hurt your sister; spill water; hit the child]. You were trying to… [play with your sister, but instead you pushed her; pour water in the glass, but instead you poured it on the table; take your toy back from the child who took it from you]”. BUT I don't justify the behaviour, I understan it, and welcome the feeling before talking about the behaviour.
  8. Observe: reflect on the cause. What caused the crisis? When I understand it, I can usually "help" my chidlren more efficiently. Observation is a powerful tool when it comes to parenting.

What I (try to) avoid

  1. I don't generalize: try to avoid using adverbs like "never" and "always". ❌ "You are always the same", "You never tidy up".
  2. I don't threaten: try to avoid talking about the future, stay in the present. ❌ "If you don't help tidy up, Oliver won't want to play with you next time".
  3. I don't raise my voice: there are little things in our brain called mirror neurons, which reflect other people's emotion. If you're angry, guess what emotion your child will reflect back.

If I do any of the above, I usually understand it very quickly, because instead of calming the crisis, I make it worse. The crying increases. The screaming intensifies. My kids throw themselves onto the floor.

I take a deep breath (two, maybe), and then I use one of the methods listed above to show empathy, give control back to the rational part of the brain, and connect again with my children.

Tell me what you think

Did you like it? Do you agree or disagree? I'd love to hear from you.

I think you'll like these

The blog

I write mainly about Montessori, parenthood, and multilingualism. Here are some recent posts.

Montessori
One day a few years ago my husband came home and said, "Why don't we put a mattress on the floor in the baby room? It'd be much more natural". "Never" was my reply. That's how our Montessori journey started. Since then we've been living, breathing and applying the philosophy at home day in and day out, starting from ourselves. Because educating children starts from the parents.
An example of how I practice empathy with my kids
How I show empathy to my children
Happy 4th birthday, Emily
Montessori New Year's tradition
Montessori Peace table
Audiobooks of real-life stories for kids
10k on Instagram!
Terrible twos
The organs of the body: workshop for kids
Kids understand if you give them honesty
Living sustainably
Living sustainably for me doesn’t only mean to have a more eco-friendly lifestyle. It means to make decisions that are sustainable for our planet, the people on it, but also for our life, our lifestyle, and our happiness. It means to take any daily chance to evolve and be happier, healthier, kinder, more responsible and more caring human beings—the only sustainable way for a meaningful future.
Face yoga is an act of self love
Why you should wear the same outfit twice on Instagram
The power of creating habits (and why you should do it, even if you then break them!)
Responsible eating is the diet of the future (Would you like to teach it to your kids?)
The power of NOT complaining: can you do it for a whole month?
Clean up your planet, please!
Infographic: 8 steps to switch to cloth nappies (a guide for reluctant parents)
A personal note on happiness
A personal note on social media
A change of life always widens your horizons
New to La Tela?
I’ve prepared collections on various topics that I’ve written over the years. Perhaps you’ll find one that interests you.

Travel

We sold everything to travel the world for two years. We're currently in New Zealand.

Books

In 2020 I wrote 4 books for the Italian collection “Gioca and Impara con il metodo Montessori” curated by Grazia Honegger Fresco. The collection is a project by Il Corriere della Sera and La Gazzetta dello Sport.

We also implemented the workshops of the last 15 volumes of the collection with Oliver and Emily.

Podcast

On my podcast, “Educare con calma”, I talk about various topics, from Montessori to sustainability. Only in Italian!

Jan 15, 2021 • 20m
Come "montessorizzare" la casa per dare indipendenza ai bambini
In questo episodio di Educare con Calma parliamo di come offrire indipendenza in casa attraverso l'ambiente. Vi parlo dell'importanza dell'ambiente (anche nelle scuole Montessori), di quanto sia importante apportare piccoli cambiamenti in casa per dare più indipendenza ai bambini, e anche di come purtroppo questo non sia sufficiente… Questo tema è uno dei primi che avevo in mente di trattare sul podcast… meglio tardi che mai! 🌸 -- Come appoggiare il podcast: Io non faccio pubblicità e non acc...
25
Jan 13, 2021 • 05m
Montessori in 5': Un metodo per smettere di criticare
Ho deciso di creare una piccola rubrica sul podcast in cui vi parlo di Montessori, educazione consapevole, disciplina dolce, disciplina positiva (chiamatela come volete, io la chiamo "educazione a lungo termine" 😉) e in ogni episodio tratto un tema in soli 5 minuti. In questo primo episodio vi suggerisco un metodo (infallibile) per smettere di criticare continuamente i nostri figli (a voi piacerebbe sentirvi sempre criticati e corretti?). L'episodio è nato da questa riflessione che ho fatto s...
24
Jan 8, 2021 • 31m
Viaggiare a tempo pieno: domande e risposte
In questo episodio di Educare con Calma rispondo alle vostre domande (più ripetute) sul nostro stile di vita di viaggiatori a tempo pieno: perché lo abbiamo scelto, come ci manteniamo, come permettiamo lo sviluppo sociale dei bambini e molto di più. Vi lascio anche alcuni articoli relazionati a ciò di cui parlo nell'episodio: I bambini devono uscire dalla propria zona di comfort  Vuoi un cambiamento nella tua vita? Trova la grotta! Se ti va, lasciami un commento sotto gli articoli per farmi s...
23

Instagram

I update Instagram almost every day to be "close" to my family far away.

Why La Tela di Carlotta?
I dreamed of the name La Tela di Carlotta. One morning I woke up and in my dreams I had created a blog named just like the American novel (Charlotte's Web). Many years and endless ups and downs later, this web of thoughts and stories is my work. It took me a long time to understand what kind of online presence I wanted and today I know: I'm transparent, I show real life, I don't advertise, I only recommend sustainable brands (and not only because they pay me) and I believe in the value of my blog and my courses—because if we don't believe in the value of our work, no one will believe in it for us.
Carlotta
Carlotta dreaming of La Tela
I know! I don't want it to be over yet either.