“Hold the feelings and hold the line” Empathy, Grit and Resilience

Reflective Parenting says maintain a balance between being empathic and sensitive to your child’s emotions on the one hand, while also setting limits or boundaries on the other hand. Balance is really important. Too little empathy can interfere with a child’s wellbeing. Too much empathy can interfere with competence.

The problem of too much empathy: Too much empathy occurs when parents feel a child’s distress too strongly, causing the parent to be as upset as the child. When a parent feels too much empathy the parent tends to rush in too quickly to fix things and relieve a child’s distress. Without being aware of it, parents do this to relieve their own distress. Unfortunately it interferes with the development of competence by depriving children of an opportunity to figure situations out on their own. Competence is built up when children are encouraged to take on challenges, problem solve and manage frustrations or disappointments more on their own.

Aim for empathy coupled with helping kids to develop grit and resilience!

Resilience: Resilience requires optimism and an ability to reappraise the situation in a way that enables a person to bounce back from a stressful or upsetting event. If you have a lemon, make lemonade.  Resilience rests on the belief that for the most part situations tend to work out and openness to the possibility that if one way does not work try another way! If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!

Example  A child tries out for the school play but does not make it, and is upset and angry. If they are resilient relatively quickly they come out of it, because they realize not everyone can get everything they want and that it was good for them to at least try.

Grit: Grit involves having goals, a willingness to work hard at pursuing them and not being afraid of failure. Grit involves passion and stick-to-itiveness.

Example  A child who plays basketball wants to get better. They practice dribbling or shooting baskets for hour an hour a day. At their next game the child make lots of mistakes. That week they try even harder and practice for 2 hours every day.

Build confidence by promoting Grit and Resilience in your child.

  • Encourage children to be more optimistic and assume things will work out.
  • Encourage children to believe in their ability to solve problems and meet challenges.
  • Allow children to manage the situation on their own, as much as possible.
  • Inspire children to try their best.

“I know you can do it! I know you are capable to handle this!” “I know you want me to help but let me first give you a chance to handle it.” “It is more important to me that you try your best, than whether or not you win.”  “Even more important than how I feel, or if I am proud of you, is for you to consider if you tried your best, and if you feel you are proud of yourself.”



As a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, I have been in private practice for over 35 years, with a special interest in parents and couples.


Nothing from October 18, 2021 to April 17, 2022.