Teaching our children “empathetic assertiveness”

In my practice, I often see confusion of how empathy and assertiveness can harmoniously work together. I see parents who appreciate empathy but have apprehension towards it and I also see people who act out of empathy but often to their own detriment. Because of this, I have come to realize that empathy is often thought of as being mutually exclusive from assertiveness.

The parents I see with an apprehension of empathy usually have a fear of the old cliché that “kindness is weakness.” A well intentioned fear of a parent is that if their child is too empathic they may be  taken advantage of.

This can be a valid concern because while compassion and empathy are instrumental to positive and deep relationships, the tendency to over-identify with others may open the door for people to take advantage or push and cross boundaries.

By Lena Aburdene Derhally