Knowing What’s Needed (so you can be as helpful as possible)
Parenting and teaching are both highly nuanced arts. Being a good person also requires nuance, which is usually learned in the family. When we take a nuanced approach to helping people, by thoughtfully expressing our perspective, observing, asking questions, listening, understanding, and acting with compassion, we are more likely to be of real service to others.
Fuel for Thought—Sometimes our best intentions miss the mark and only make things worse. Sometimes we don’t take time to assess what’s really needed, or we make assumptions and end up not being helpful at all. Recall a time when someone’s well-meaning response actually made you feel worse. Recall a time when a compassionate, nuanced response was helpful.
Conversations That Count—Talk with your child about the way some people react more intensely than others. Maybe you or someone in your family is like this. Let your child know that this tendency may be part of our in-born temperament and it isn’t necessarily a good thing or a bad thing. If your child typically gets very upset when things aren’t going well, ask, “When you’re feeling that way, how would you like other people to respond so we can help you?” Listen to his/her answer and take note. Conversely, if someone else in the family is easily upset, ask your child, “At those times, how might we be more helpful to _____?”
Teach—Make a family agreement to try harder to understand each other when we are upset. Get into the habit of observing what’s going on and focusing on being truly helpful. Instead of making assumptions, let’s agree to ask each other, “What can I do to help?” Sometimes, the most helpful response is to hang in there with love and compassion.