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The #1 Parenting Secret

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Do you want to know the best-kept secret to great parenting? (Yup, thought so). It's understanding your child's perspective. This is big.

Study after study has shown that the single tactic of trying to understand your child's perspective has a bigger positive impact on your children than most other things you do. If that wasn't clear, read it again!

Is it always intuitive to know how your child views the world? No. Is it always easy? No. But, the rewards are undeniably powerful.

You may be asking: But how can I possibly know what my child is thinking? First and foremost, put your preconceived notions aside and really come to understand your child through a combination of observing, noticing, and accepting.

Perspective taking has three levels:

  1. See – Think spatially. Literally, consider how your child sees the world. Hint: if you are blessed with the ability to remember how you saw things as a kid, then you'll be one step ahead. If not, reflect on Alice in Wonderland. Like ants, children are small. Therefore, everything else looks much bigger. Also, things often appear more vivid and illustrative.
  2. Think – Imagine how your child thinks. Rather than imagining yourself in a situation, imagine your child in that situation. This can be an elusive concept to many, so I'll come back to it in future posts.
  3. Feel – Try to understand how something might affect your child even if it does not affect you.

The benefits:

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

I won't pretend this does not take thought and consideration. It's not a band-aid approach to parenting struggles. Rather, it's an entire parenting paradigm; one that offers tremendous value to your relationship with your child.

Like all significant relationships, this one requires an ability to understand your child in order for the parent-child relationship to be successful and thrive. This ability to step outside of your own viewpoint is a remarkable capability of the human mind. Use it!

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 perspective taking is needed most.

Children are born with their own unique personalities, from which ideas and interests emerge. Trivializing or controlling a child's interests, ideas, passions, fears, and tears only makes her feel foolish and unsupported. This can have devastating effects on your child.

I'll dissect this parenting paradigm in subsequent posts.

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About Emily Geizer

  • That is an important part of parenting, no matter what perspective you come from.

    Well done article.

    Having three grown children, I would have said having real quality time, and reading to them and with them. But I hadn’t thought about that side of things; although, I think many parents do it reflexively without realizing it. I think it was much easier to do when they were little though.

  • I disagree with @Fran. I think most parents are too preoccupied (they call it “busy”) to notice their kids’ reactions or imagine their kids’ mental positions.

    Personally, I do my best to put myself in my kids place, but I haven’t always done it and since I’m different from them and they are different from one another, it can be touch, despite my best intentions.

    Excellent message to parents and I love the point about the low visual point of view of kids!

  • Thanks for a succinct and well-phrased article. You’ve definitely hit the spot, in my view.
    (and thanks to @EasyParenting for twitting it)

    If it’s OK with you, I’d like to translate this article to Hebrew and post it in my blog, Which advocates (among other things) positive parenting.

    BTW I translate for a living, so no worries about accuracy (I mostly translate into Hebrew, though, so my english may not be top notch.)

    PS tried to email you, but couldn’t find your address.

    [Personal contact info deleted]