We had prepared our 2 year old daughter for the rearrangement of her room. The sofa was going to be moved to the attic so we could move in a regular bed and toy shelf. My husband and our friend had the sofa stuck in the doorway when our daughter burst into tears. "Leigh, are you sad about losing the sofa?" I inquired. She nodded her head through loud sobs. But, I thought to myself, we talked about this and prepared her for it. She was excited. What's happened, I wondered. As I waited for her to calm down -- while my husband and our friend tried to loosen the stuck sofa -- I wondered what could be wrong. She was too upset to tell me so I just held her while she cried. As she began to calm down, she stated, "I know Mommy, we'll go to the attic to read." Of course! Because two year olds reason differently than adults, she believed if the sofa left the room, bedtime stories would leave with it. I took her hand and we crawled under the sofa that was still stuck in the doorway. "We can read somewhere else," I said. She spotted her new bean bag chair and pointed to it. I grabbed a book and we sat down and read. Her tears subsided and the sofa, finally unstuck, was taken to the attic.
The above story demonstrates empathy, or understanding someone else's perspective. Yes, I had told my daughter about the sofa move. And, I could have reminded her of that when she began crying. But, I wanted to UNDERSTAND why she was crying. By being patient, I learned what her real fear was -- not getting to read -- and we quickly addressed that fear.
Empathy, or trying to understand someone else's perspective, is a fundamental emotional intelligence skill. Model it for your children and they will be sure to learn this valuable skill.