Originally Posted by mz_libbie22
How can you say kids are born social creatures but aren't born empathetic? That seems like an oxymoron.
I don't see it as an oxymoron to say that children are born social creatures, with a desire for loving relationships -- and also to say that they view themselves as the center of the world, and think of everything in terms of how it affects them. A person can be social and still need help learning to see things from others' points of view (which is empathy).
|I also think there's a huge difference between infants and preschoolers and older kids, nobody was advocating CIO.
I made the comparison with CIO, to illustrate the difference between behaviorism and gentle discipline ... and went on to tie it in with parents' differing responses to a child saying, Mommy, I want ..." Gentle discipline (as I see it) doesn't advocate worrying that empathy will "reinforce" whining or materialism.
Also, I guess I misunderstood you in your previous post: I understood you as saying that empathizing might send your son the message that it was okay to want things he didn't need ... in other words, I thought you were concerned about "reinforcing" materialism.
Now you say that you don't see anything wrong with your child wanting things, and you don't see this as behavior that should be "nipped in the bud." So ... where's the harm in empathizing, then?
While I agree that there are many differences between infants, preschoolers, and older kids -- I still see behavior as communication to be listened to, and I think I should take my children's dreams and desires seriously.
I realize it's often more complicated than when they were infants, and so much was solved by the breast. Whereas the nursing mama succeeds in meeting her infant's needs by giving him the breast when he asks for it -- the mother of an older child isn't necessarily meeting the real need by unthinkingly buying every toy the child asks for.
As an example, I know a mother who couldn't stand her toddler's shrieking, so when he shrieked she quickly moved to stop the noise. Since he often shrieked for whatever toy his older brother was playing with, she got into the habit of making her older child hand the toys to the baby, just to shut him up.
He was still a very discontented child ... though on the surface it looked like what he wanted was the toys, I think he was really seeking for more interactive play -- a need which might have been met by his mother getting down on the floor, and playing and talking with him. He saw his brother having fun with the toys, and wanted to have fun, too.
Also, I think in families where there's a lot of "trumping" going on (i.e. "I know you want X, but so-and-so wants Y, and his want trumps yours this time, so you can't have X"), a child may get the idea that the way to know he's important, is to see his wants "trumping" others' wants as much as possible.
As our children grow, I think parenting becomes more complex, and we have to do more listening to figure out what is really being sought. Sometimes, for sure, the best way to help our children to achieve a dream is to buy the item they're asking for. Sometimes it's better to find out what experience it is that they're really seeking, and help them brainstorm other ways to get the experience they want, without, for instance, having to go into thousands of dollars of debt.
I don't know for sure if cutting the conversation short by saying, "You don't need that," will stunt a child's ability to develop empathy. But it does seem to close the door on at least one opportunity to think, imagine, and problem-solve.