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Crawling Inside Your Child’s Mind

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In this series I have re-introduced an important theme: your child's perspective. Understanding your child's perspective is the first step toward respecting your child as the unique person that he is.

Parents often delight in trying to understand their newborn's needs. It can be exciting to get to know the newest member of the family. Yet, when it comes to older kids, many parents have a different approach. They try to control instead of observe.

It's no wonder. Who wants to crawl inside the mind of a child who is screaming or yelling? Yet this is when trying on another person's perspective is critical.

Admittedly, this is no easy feat. But its rewards are immeasurable. Here's a short list:

The benefits:

  1. Parents really understand what is going on.
  2. Therefore, children feel understood and respected.
  3. Parents are more patient with their children.
  4. Therefore, children feel better about themselves and more connected with parents.
  5. Parents set a positive example for moral development.
  6. Therefore, children learn from example how to be less self-centered and more concerned with others' feelings.

The previous post discussed understanding your child's perspective visually. This post will address the intellectual aspect. There are many ways to go about answering the question, “What is my child thinking?" First, and most important, put your own idea or fantasy aside of who you want your child to be and be open to who your child is.

Many parents have preconceived ideas about how they want their kid to develop. When things turn out differently, parents mourn the loss of their "dream" child. Sometimes this mourning gets in the way of the parent seeing the child for who he really is.

I will provide tools in future posts for better understanding your child's individual temperament and behavior preferences.

In the meantime, consider this common scenario:

You are at the grocery store with your two children. While waiting in the check-out line, another shopper behind you starts mooning over one of your children (typically the one at that "cute age").

"Oh, look at you and your cool sunglasses. What great hair he has! I love those dimples. How old are you?"

Meanwhile, your other child, standing like a shadow beside you, is looking on. What do you imagine your other child thinking? Can you imagine? It might be different than what you are thinking, but read his facial expressions and body language. Is he also admiring his little brother? Or, is he thinking that he must be invisible or not as cute? Pay attention to see if this experience gets rehatched later in a different sort of way (a fight, or being sad, mopey, irritable).

Your immediate concern might be that you are projecting your own thoughts or feelings onto your child. This is tempting. But, with practice and thoughtful observation, you will begin to harness your child's true nature and more and more accurately understand what makes him tick.

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About Emily Geizer

  • Sometimes you have to wonder if parents remember being a child… Thanks for your great article.

  • Unfortunately it’s all too true. We are rushing around so much that we don’t take the time to really listen and understand the child’s perspective.

  • Well said. Another way to look at it is that as parents, we should interest ourselves in more than just our child’s behavior. We should be interested in their thoughts and feelings and the reasons *why* they’re behaving a certain way. I want primarily to *connect* with my kids, not primarily to *control* them.