Parenting Coach

Practical ideas for social, emotional and behavioral challenges

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Aim for empathy.

What you can do

Don’t be afraid to acknowledge that some tasks are difficult for your child. But try to empathize rather than sympathize. Your child doesn’t want to be pitied—your child wants to be understood.

Acknowledge your child’s feelings. If possible, share memories about how you struggled with something in the past and how you persevered. Use these conversations to help convince your child that she has the ability to strengthen skills and break the cycle of repeated failure.

What you can say

“Sofia, I heard you say you think you’re dumb. I know it must be hard for you to feel smart when reading is so difficult for you right now. But your teacher and I know how smart you really are, and I know you’ll realize that soon.”

“When I was in college, I needed to pass a statistics course in order to graduate. Statistics was so hard for me. I just couldn’t remember all those rules and formulas. I was so frustrated! I wanted to give up, and I almost did.”

“My roommate encouraged me to stick it out. So I kept my focus, got help from the professor when I needed it, and I was able to pass the class and graduate. I don’t think I’ll ever forget how I struggled with statistics, Sofia. But I learned how powerful it can be to have the right attitude and get the right help to learn a difficult skill. So hang in there, honey. You’ll get there.”

Why this will help

By empathizing rather than sympathizing, you’ll be sharing your own stories and feelings while acknowledging your child’s struggles. Doing this will enable you to talk openly and honestly about your child’s difficulties and at the same time provide support and optimism about better times ahead.

Talking about your own experiences will help your child feel loved and accepted. This will also boost her confidence and motivate her to keep trying hard.

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