“Seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another.”
Mingo is 20-month-old now. Although he doesn’t say a lot of words, he understands almost everything you say. It is fascinating to watch how he act towards my request.
I somehow twisted my right ankle tonight. Although it was not that bad, I didn't want to move much. When I was playing with Mingo on the floor, a coin rolled to the edge of the cabinet in front of us. I sighed and called Mingo. He looked at me. I told him: " Mommy's ankle hurts. I can't move. I want to get the coin. I need your help."
As a P.E.T. parent trainer, I felt I made a clear self-declarative i-message. He acted in a snap of time. Guess what he did!
Instead of going to get the coin for me as I preassumed, he pushed my back toward the coin. After found out that he didn't have enough strength to push me there, he clapped his hands, shrugged his shoulder, and gave me a look that "I tried. I can't help ya.”
From my perspective, “help” means getting the coin for me. From Mingo's perspective, "help" means helping me get there so that I can get the coin myself.
It is an interesting perspective that I never thought of, yet the logic makes the perfect sense. When I think it through, isn't helping me getting there to get the coin by myself more respectful and empathetic than helping me get the coin directly?
From the individual psychology point of view, if he did get the coin to me right away, he must unconsciously assume inadequacy of mom.
I pointed to the coin again, and told him that "mom's ankle hurts, and I want the coin." He thought for a moment and ran to get the coin and put the coin in my hands.
When he realized that I couldn't get the coin myself, he did it for me.
I learned the differences among other parenting workshops and P.E.T. during the P.E.T. training. Nonviolent Communication, How to Talk so Kids Will Listen And Listen so Kids Will Talk, and P.E.T. share similar concepts. A significant difference is that in P.E.T. parents don't say the request for a change of behavior at the end of an i-message. The After express their thinking, feeling and a tangible effect, parents stop talking. The presumption is that after hearing the feeling of another, the child is more likely to change his or her behaviors, as empathy is one of the virtues being human.
In her books, Montessori also wrote that in a mature primary Montessori classroom, children did not assume incapability of other kids. When someone spilled water on the floor, other children were still at their work. It was not that they didn't have empathy. They simply assumed (unconsciously) that the child could handle it. If the child who made the spill called for help, many children stopped their work and helped with the cleanup.
In children's eyes, when we did something for them right away when they are struggling, did they like it? Were they forced to accept what has been done to them? Did they ever have a thought of trying themselves first? Would their self-respect be crushed by our actions?
When we looked at ourselves rushing to help our children with this and with that through a third perspective, did we do something for them too often? Did we ever think how to guide the children to accomplish something by themselves? Did we assume the incapability of our children too often?
Maybe it is time to learn from the child, and give the genuine empathy and respect to the child. Maybe next time when the child is struggling, hold our impulse to help immediately. Count for five seconds first and see what happens. The worst case scenario is that we have to do help. But the 5 seconds of pause may allow our children to prove us wrong.
Let's give our kids a space to grow. And if the child is not there yet, we can always help. The child will only appreciate more of our help, when then really need it.