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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Feel – Try to understand how something might affect your child even if it does not affect you.
- Parents really understand what is going on.
- Children feel understood and respected.
- Parents are more patient with their children.
- Children feel better about themselves and more connected with parents.
- Parents set a positive example for moral development.
- 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.