• 2011 (16)
  • 2010 (141)
  • 2009 (12)

Helping People to Help Themselves – Part One

August 16, 2010

Permitting another Person to Feel

Validation is not about making someone feel good, better or changing them. It is about insight, respect, and accepting. It is something that we do to let another person know we identify with his or her feelings or needs. To show we consider them and what they are going through and to let them know we care. It is about permitting another to live on their terms, and loving them. We cannot make anyone feel anything or make anything all better for anyone. Each person must find their own direction in this world; we can help by supporting instead of denying them.

In this series, I will use the terms “feel for” and “care for”. Allow me to offer you my definition of sympathy to help with clarity. “To feel for or care for is what I consider sympathy. To understand what people are going through, we must accept the way he or she feels without adopting their feelings. Empathy is to care about another without feeling for them; people must care for themselves if they want to change their circumstances. We can care about but caring for another helps them remain indifferent. We all must care for ourselves while caring about other people. In other words, another person’s feelings, attitude and outlook must remain with them, if we want to remain objective.

Just as self-pity does not serve you, feeling sorry for other people cannot serve them. Identifying with the way another person feels is absolutely a part of being empathetic. Constantly fixing things for other people so that they will be happy is an avenue of failure. Trying to maintain or preserve how another person feels will leave you feeling helpless, as you let the person down repeatedly. The best method is to accept that everyone must work through his or her problems. Being empathetic and allowing, your feelings to remain separate will serve you both. The person who comes to you for help is looking for your understanding and consideration.


Helping a Child Feel Cared About

In this part of the series, we will look at small children. Parents and children can have an ongoing power struggle that causes low self-esteem. By ending the power struggles or even preventing them parents, show their child that they care about them. One way to keep from developing the struggle in the first place is to show the same consideration for your child as you would show an adult. You would not slap an adult’s hand every time they touched something that belonged to you would you. If you look back on your own childhood, you may discover that your own parents showed you little respect. At the center of the concept of validation is respect and consideration. You hear on television, “Talk to your kids, they will listen.” This is a great advice, and there is no need to control them and make decisions for them.

Imagine a mother in the store as her four-year-old son announces that he wants some candy. You can hear by the enthusiasm in his voice that he is empowered by the idea concerning what he wants. At this point, the parent has several options, and maybe even endless various outcomes. Below are some possibilities, see if you can spot the difference in each. In the examples below, there is a mixture of sympathy, empathy, and what my grandson calls “kid ignores.” One example is just obvious disrespect and inconsideration for what the child wants and needs. See if you can pinpoint the words and sentences that are beneficial to the child, (that enables him to feel important). Which examples engage the child’s mind and provide an opportunity? What is the mother doing or saying that enables the child to feel valued?


1. The child and mother enter the store, and as they walk by a nearby candy, rack the child hesitates and says, “I want some candy!”

The mother squeezes his hand and tugs a little to encourage him to keep moving. As her child shows resistance, she stops and says, “You always want candy, we have candy at home.”

“Not that kind of candy though, I want this kind.”

“Candy is bad for your teeth. You can get some next time.”


2. The child and mother enter the store and as they walk by the candy rack, the child pulls his hand from hers and runs to the candy. “I want some candy!”

The mother walks over to him and says, “You want candy. Do you have candy at home?”

“Yes, but not this kind.”

“What kind do you have at home?”

The child names the different candy available to him at home, “M&M’s, Snickers, and Lemon Drops.”

“What is your favorite?”

“I like them all momma!” he says.

“Which of these would you like to have at home?”

“This one, he says picking up a peanut butter cup.”

“The next time I buy candy for home I will be sure and remember that,” she says.

“Cool! That’s the kind of candy I want!”


3. They enter the store and as the boy is announcing his needs, he begins pulling his mother toward the candy and the mother willingly follows. “I want candy!”

“What is your favorite?” she asks.

“I like this kind momma, I want some.”

“Why do you like that kind?”

“I just do!”

“I like that kind too, but this one is my favorite, she says, picking up an Almond Joy. “We have lots of candy at home you know.”

“I know we have M&M’s, Snickers, and Lemon Drops.”

“You should get this kind, you haven’t ever had it.”

“I like this kind.” he insists picking up his preference.

“You know what lets both get one,” she says.

They put the candy in the cart and continue with the shopping.


4. The child sees the candy rack and as his mother feels him pull toward it, she pulls back. “I want candy!”

“No you are not getting any candy, you have enough. We don’t have time to shop for candy,” she explains as drags him further along.

“We don’t have the kind I like at home momma.”

“You are not getting any more candy now stop nagging me. If you keep acting like this I will leave you home next time.”

The argument and the begging continue down the first aisle. Finally, the boy concedes and sits quietly in the cart. When they reach the snack aisle…”I want Cookies!” and the story continues as she is presented with another chance to validate his wants, and needs.


Were you able to pinpoint the contrasts?

  • Asking supporting questions, equips even small children to meet their own needs and become satisfied.
  • These questions begin with the words what, how, is, do, which, where. Try refraining from the use of the word why because it causes people to be apologetic.
  • Telling another person what he or she should do is inconsiderate, even if he or she has asked.
  • Someone who asks what you would do (what they should do) is not enthusiastic over helping him or herself.
  • Ask some more questions that will help them become confident when they answer.
  • By asking the suitable questions and using confirming statements, you can help them find their own answers.
  • Avoid offering solutions, choices or options (at first); instead help them discover the solution. We can find our own answers by asking the right questions, and we can help others using this method too.

In part two of this series we will look at teenagers and supporting them in their emotional years. In this section of the series, I will present listening, responding, and compromise. Can you tell in the above examples when the mother compromised with the child? What did the mother say that compromised the child’s integrity, and self-worth? Did the mother try to change the child’s feelings about the candy or did she help him know that it was okay to want the candy? Keep in mind that validating another is not about trying to change how they feel or to stop their feelings. It is a method of helping them accept their own feelings and find their own satisfaction.


2 Comments to “Helping People to Help Themselves – Part One”

  1. Interesting. Before I continue with the comment, I will mention that I do not have children, so that I not speak this from personal experience.

    First I want to talk about the introduction, which causes my thoughts. “Even monkeys fall from trees” Japanese proverb says, it’s the same with human beings around us. We all fall, get up, and we have feelings about it. And monkeys certainly do not want that someone feels sorry for them… I totally agree that feeling sorry for other people can not serve them. It can only hurt them and ourselves.

    It is important to allow to people to believe (and be) in what they choose at the time. Every time I criticize someone because of his beliefs, I recall that things I believed a few years ago are “rubbish” and “stupid” in comparison to what I believe today. And for a few years, things that I believe today will be dumb… So, who am I to judge someone else’s beliefs. But I can always help them to accept their own feelings. It’s best for them and for me.

    Now, the rest of the post…

    The examples are interesting, I was in a similar situation with my little nephew, and frankly, in the end I bought him candy. :(

    Questions are powerful tools, they allow another person (or child) to think for themselves, to express their inner feelings, without the interference of our ego… great points.

    • Sandra says:

      Hi Marko,

      I can completely relate to what you are saying concerning beliefs! As I grow, I have learned that concepts grow as well, and I find my faulty part of that belief. I am still going through this process, and it is a lifelong one.

      Giving your nephew the candy can validate him. By presenting questions to children, we can help them understand that it is okay to ask for what they want. If a child wants the candy, it is best to encourage him to ask you to buy it for him. Depending on the circumstances you may want to empower the child to ask you to buy it. If you are unwilling to buy it, you can help the child understand that you care about what he wants by helping him accept his feelings about not having his way. In other words, it is not always about the child; you are involved as well. This is one reason it is important to know what you want when it comes to dealing with people and even animals. It is a win-win when both parties know what they want to accomplish. I don’t want to buy him candy can become, I want him to respect that I want to leave the candy on the shelf.

      I am speaking from experience with my children and grandchildren. However, the point of this series is to offer general food for thought that could help you gain some insight of your own.