Empathy is the First Step in Making Up

This week I found the best video I have seen in a long time. It is a beautiful illustration of the power of empathy to change the world, one relationship at a time. The movie is called validation and is a bit of a play on words – the setting points to free parking validation but the main character validates people using empathy and compliments to help them smile. I enjoyed it very much, it is very uplifting for anyone that likes to be encouraged (I don’t know anyone who doesn’t!).

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I was inspired by the movie and attracted two different experiences that same day which emphasized the miraculous emotional healing that empathy can provide in relationships.

My wife Candice had been outside in the heat (yes heat, this is Phoenix in Nov) with one of our kids at a field trip with 47 1st-3rd graders that day (during her moon cycle), so she was a bit out of sorts. All the kids seemed to be asking her for things at once while she was getting dinner ready and she was trying to tell me about her frustrating day.

I really didn’t want to hear about it, but I made a conscious decision to show empathy by repeating what she had said in my own words – “You’ve been through a lot today and you just want a break, with some peace and quiet.”

Candice instantly lit up and gave me a big hug, then she didn’t say anything more about it – I was amazed!

Later while eating dinner Nickalus (who is 2) came to me crying:


Finally I got the idea – “Oh, did you bump your head?”
“Yeaaah…” (as he nodded emphatically).
“That’s a bummer.” I replied, at which point he promptly calmed down and walked away. 🙂

It was as if I waved a magic wand and mended broken hearts with my words! Incredible!

I found an interesting book yesterday which uses empathy as part of the initial steps in the advice given to help people get their ex back. If you watch the first video on the page describing the Magic of Making Up, you’ll see how empathy is used in that situation – though it goes a bit further in agreeing with the other side of an argument, but the essence of showing an understanding of their position is really empathy at work – like magic.

Born to be Free

We had a birthday party for our youngest child yesterday and something happened which reinforced the middle name we gave him.  Candice had bought a birthday cake that morning and I put it on the counter by the stove pushed against the back wall in a corner of the kitchen.  About an hour later, while I was outside cleaning up the yard, Candice came out of the house holding Hani out by his arms while he wiggled like the whirling dervish that he is, and said:

Hani - Born Free

“This is why you don’t put cake on the counter!”

While Candice was on the phone, Hani had come to her holding the cake upside down (luckily it was in a plastic container he couldn’t open) and shaking it, saying “Cake!  Cake!” – apparently he had moved a chair from the table across the room to the counter right where the cake was in the back corner, then just climbed up and retrieved his prize.

Hani’s middle name is Fungasa, which means “liberate yourself”.  I took his picture (above) a few days ago while he was practicing his Harley style of freedom. 🙂

You can get help finding your own freedom here.

How to get your kids to clean the kitchen table

First let me provide some context for this story. As you can see below, we have a collection of messy eaters. We leave food on the table after meals because the kids may return to finish it later. In this picture I found Hani cleaning up after everyone’s breakfast (he was hungry that day). There’s a tablecloth on in this picture but Nickalus used to use tablecloths to pull everyone’s bowl to him (the ones that didn’t fall off the table on the way) before he learned to get out of his seat, so we stopped using tablecloths except for special occasions.
Hani Eating on the Table
As you can imagine the table gets layers of encrusted food (sort of like stalagmites) that get thicker over time and become very difficult to clean. One day when Candice was talking with a preschool teacher, she learned about a good way to clean up tables with shaving cream.
All Five Kids Cleaning the Table
I even saw Demitri’s kindergarten teacher using shaving cream on a table with the students so they could write letters in it at the parents night last fall. So we decided we would make a game of it and have all the kids clean the table one Sunday morning before breakfast. We put all the kids at the table and squirted a bunch of shaving cream on it and told them to play in it. They thoroughly enjoyed themselves and I got a few good pictures.

Nickalus having fun with the shaving cream
Nickalus got some on his face and decided to try and lick it off – luckily his tongue is not long enough to reach. He must have gotten into some leftover pizza before breakfast that day, which explains the red sauce all over his face.

Demitri wants to wash his hair
Then Demitri had the great idea to wash his hair with the shaving cream – which is fine since then we didn’t need to use shampoo later 🙂

Nickalus wants to wash his hair too
Then Nickalus wanted to be like Demitri – or was it Nickalus who started it? I can’t remember. But Nickalus’ hair is so fine that he didn’t need any water to make suds.

Table is so clean you can see your reflection
Finally, after about half an hour of “cleaning” the table and subsequent baths in the sink for at least a couple of the kids (the ones with shaving cream in their hair also got their hair washed), we wiped up the table and it was so clean you could see your reflection in it!

How to Soothe a Crying Baby

With five small children in the house, we have learned many ways of soothing our children.  One day this week Candice got Nickalus out of bed after a nap and he was screaming and crying uncontrollably.  He wouldn’t let go of his blanket, so she pulled him out, blanket and all.  He wouldn’t take a pacifier or bottle of water, so when she brought him downstairs she stuck a chicken nugget in his mouth.

One thing we have learned about Nickalus is that he finds comfort in food, but Candice was still amazed that he stopped crying so fast.  He immediately stopped wailing and sucked on the chicken nugget like it was a pacifier, while still clutching his blanket.  He must have sucked on it for 10 minutes before eating it, plenty of time for me to take this picture:
Nickalus sucking on a chicken nugget while clutching his blanket

This is meant as a humorous post, but if your child is soothed by food you might try something similar – just make sure you only give chicken nuggets to babies with teeth, Nickalus has 16 teeth now (he’s 19 months old).

We also use many types of wraps and baby carriers to soothe our babies (it’s like holding them but it’s not as tiring and you can have your hands free), like an ergo, a becko, a maytie, a moby wrap, a homemade sling, a maya wrap, rebozo, and a few more that I don’t remember the names of (we have a large collection). Mamatoto is a good resource if you want to learn about carrying babies – with two babies around I usually carry one on my back just to keep them out of trouble!

My Easy Button

Hello again,

After a several month hiatus I’ve been inspired to add to this blog again.  I will start by introducing my easy button.  I’m including a picture of it below for those in other countries who aren’t familiar with Staples or their USA based advertising themes.  I mentioned it to a client of mine in the U.K. and although they have staples there he hadn’t heard of it.

When you push the button there is a recording that says “That was easy!” – I have it on my desk and push it whenever I figure out a solution to something or get done with a task I set for myself.  It helps me to feel confident that I can do anything, because everything is easy once I figure it out:)

Candice has one in the kitchen, and I tell Kayin (our 6 yr old) to take mine with him whenever he complains that he can’t do something – like when he says he can’t get to the next level in a video game.

If you go to staples.com and search for easy button you can get one yourself if you want – they even have one in spanish now.

Easy Button