Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Empathy and CPS Parenting

There are  2 approaches to empathy that are found in different parenting styles. Progressive parenting uses empathy with compassion. Traditional parenting uses empathy or perfunctory empathy.

Progressive parenting which focuses on the whole child including his motives and feelings takes seriously a child's concerns. Getting a clear understanding of the child's concerns is critical for solving problems in a collaborative way= Plan B. Here we use 'empathy with compassion'. 

 Traditional parents uses ' empathy ' to get compliance. When we use reflective listening or empathy we say to kids that they have been heard. This technique is sold as having magic powers to produce instant results. So when a mom uses Plan A=adult imposing adult will, it sounds like this.

 Mom:  you can't go to a friend more than twice during the week
              Kid:  you are always   so unfair 
             Mom: Hmmm. It sounds like you think what I have proposed isn't fair. That makes you feel angry , doesn't it !?
(parody) -             Kid: Yes, But    …well, I guess that I can live with it. (Pause) Gosh, thanks for taking the time to understand me! I feel all better now!
This is called ' perfunctory' empathy and is rather apathetic and indifferent .The child perceives that their concerns are being ignored and is resigned to the fact that her mother will never see her perspective.

From   Ross Greene interview -Lost at school  on empathy and collaborative problem solving

 As I describe in Lost at School, there are three ingredients required for resolving a problem collaboratively.  first is to gather information from the kid so as to achieve the clearest possible understanding of a kid's concern or perspective on the problem you're trying to resolve (I call this the Empathy step).The second is to communicate the adult's concern or perspective on the same problem (I refer to this as the Define the Problem step).And the third is the brainstorming of solutions that will address the concerns of both parties (I've called this the Invitation).Perfunctory empathy – which is not a desirable thing – relates to the first ingredient, and refers to the tendency on the part of adults to gloss over or rush through the process of information seeking, thereby achieving an insufficient level of understanding of a kid's concern or perspective, guaranteeing that the kid's concern will remain unaddressed, and perpetuating challenging behavior in response to that problem.
Why do adults do this? Well, we are pressed for time (of course, if we don't take the time to understand the concern or perspective setting the stage for a kid's challenging behavior then we're going to be spending a lot of time dealing with his challenging behavior).Often adults use perfunctory empathy because we're certain we already know what the kid's concern or perspective is (my experience is that we're often wrong).And often it's because we're not sure what words to use to "drill" for more specific information. But in many instances it's because we're worried that if we take a kid's concern into consideration, somehow our concern won't be taken into account. Now…and this is rhetorical question…why are there so many adults who are worried that their concerns won't be taken into account?'

Plan B = both concerns 
 So if a kid is not happy to go out to play in recess, a Plan B would go like this. The challenge is to make sure we use ' empathy with compassion' and not ' perfunctory empathy ' in the CPS process.

Teacher – I have noticed that you are not so keen about going out for recess-play lately.
Kid – Yes
Teacher – so what's up?
Kid – I just don't want to go out.

Teacher - getting empathy wrong using perfunctory empathy

Ok so you don't want to go out for recess – the thing is that I don't mind you staying with me every once in a while, but sometimes I have to leave the classroom and there won't be anyone to watch you .Do you understand?
Kid – Uh –huh
Teacher- Do you think we can come up with a plan so of what to do when I need to leave the classroom, and you don't want to go out for recess. Do you have any ideas?

Teacher – getting the empathy step right
You don't want to go out for recess; can you try to help me understand why?
The kids concerns could be that she does not feel socially accepted or there might be bullying or there is something else going on and only she can give us information. Often it takes a bit of drilling down to get a clear idea and understanding of her concerns.

By using perfunctory empathy and paying lip service to a child's concerns we are going to come up with a solution that does not deal with the underlying problem.

There are times when a kid comes over to us, upset about something and is just looking for empathy. She just wants someone to listen and empathize and feel for her. We can use reflective listening and empathy to help her get over the emotional hurt.

But when we want to collaboratively solve problems we need to use ' empathy with compassion'.

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