“Don’t worry about it. You can get another one.”
“It’s not that big a deal.”
“So what do you want me to do about it?”
“Why don’t you just suck it up?”
“Pouting isn’t going to get you anywhere.”
The statements above and those similar to them are often uttered by parents whose homes suffer from Empathy Deficit Disorder.
Empathy Deficit Disorder or EDD as it is often called is a chronic condition that is brought on by parents’ refusal to acknowledge a child’s feelings or by their efforts to diminish a child’s feelings when they are expressed. These symptoms are an offshoot of parental Hurry Up sickness engaged in by adults who don’t take time to listen or respond to a child’s feelings because getting on with the business of the day is more important that investing the time to make empathetic responses to the people they love.
Empathy Deficit Disorder occurs most often in adults who have low EIQ, Emotional Intelligence Quotient. These long-suffering adults do not know the names of their own feelings. Nor do they understand how to recognize or handle them effectively. Because they have a low EIQ, they do not realize their homes are infested with EDD. Not being consciously aware of the problem, parents allow the condition to exist and get progressively worse as their children grow older. All of this has led to the epidemic that Empathy Deficit Disorder has become today.
Long term existence of EDD results in lack of closeness between parents and children and produces a severe disconnect that can take years to repair. Children are often left bewildered at parents’ apparent lack of caring and concern for their feelings. In turn, they learn to numb their feelings as a coping mechanism as protection from experiencing the hurt and emptiness they feel but which they cannot describe or totally understand at a young age.
The only known cure of EDD is knowledge and skill. As parents understanding of the problem increases and the skill level improves, Empathy Deficit Disorder can be reversed in their homes and in their own lives. Where EDD is present, education and action is the only known pathway to health.
To eradicate Empathy Deficit Disorder in your home, begin by understanding its importance. To be fully healthy, children need parents, teachers, and other adults to respond to their feelings in positive ways. This includes using feeling words when children are caught up in strong emotion (sadness or joy, anger or love, fear or faith). “You look like you are frustrated.” “You seem angry.” “You sound like you are bubbling over with happiness.” This communicates to children that their feelings are normal and part of being a fully functioning human being. This serves as a preventative inoculation against this common disease.
Also, giving love, nurture and comfort when children are upset puts EDD on the run. Take your child up on your lap and hug him if he fell and skinned his knee. Hold your daughter if she is scared of the shadows in her bedroom. Rub his back if he is crying so hard he can’t seem to get his breath.
Acknowledge the child’s feelings even if you have to guess what the child might be feeling at this moment. Attempting to talk a child out of their feelings is the wrong medicine when combating EDD. “You seem frightened,” is empathetic. “There is no reason to feel scared,” is EDD in action. “It must feel bad not to get invited to the party,” communicates understanding and caring. “There will be other parties. We can have one of our own,” tells the child that their feelings are not important.
Lead with empathy when combating this dreaded disease. Teaching, reassuring, disciplining, explaining, and providing information can come later. When the child is in the midst of powerful emotion reasoning, reassuring, and telling children there is no good reason for their feelings exacerbates the problem.
“I see tears in your eyes. You look sad,” leads with empathy. So does, “So you felt envious when she wore the new clothes.” Demonstrate understanding by telling children, “You took the loss hard. Do you want to talk or be left alone for awhile?” Show them EDD has no place in your home by saying, “You’re really concerned about that,” and “It’s ok to feel bad for awhile.”
No known charity has been organized to combat this disease in children. It is up to all of us individually to create emotional health in our homes. Yes, eliminating EDD in your home might seem overwhelming to you right now, especially if several children are inflicted. Take your time. Move on to full health, slowly and steadily, one feeling word at a time.
About the Author:
Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the authors of The 10 Commitments: Parenting with Purpose. They are two of the world’s foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free Uncommon Parenting blog. To obtain more information about how they can help you or your group meet your parenting needs, visit their website today: www.uncommon-parenting.com.