In a previous post I introduced the importance of understanding your child's perspective. It is the cornerstone of good parenting.
In fact, studies have shown that understanding your child's perspective has a bigger positive impact on your children than anything else you can do as a parent! Yet the idea of knowing the child's perspective eludes even those parents with the best intentions.
There are three levels of perspective taking, as Jean Piaget explained: visual, intellectual, and emotional.
Today I hope to provide you with enough detail about the visual aspect that you will be able to transfer this discussion to your own experiences. Future posts will examine the intellectual and emotional perspectives of children.
First, take a moment to imagine yourself the height of your child. Maneuver around your house at this height (crawling, squatting, kneeling) to gain insight into what your child experiences every day.
- Are her needs met at this level?
- Are there small chairs and tables, books positioned lower on shelves, or toys located in easy reach?
- Is there interesting artwork at this level?
- Is your child's independence supported at this level (dressing, eating, helping with household tasks)?
Aside from having a different physical perspective on the world with regards to height and size, children see other aspects of life differently too. Can you remember the way those classic children's books looked to you as a youngster? Probably more vivid and illustrative than they do today, after you've read them umpteen times. Do you remember how gigantic and "alive" playgrounds and pools looked when you were very young?
Consider now your own child's perspective.
Have you ever brought your child to a festival only to have her "freak out"? How embarrassing, right?
Your child was over-stimulated by the activity, movement, noises, smells, light, sirens, etc. Make note of this so that in the future you can prepare your child. Discuss those strong feelings, and give her names for the emotions. This will help your child to feel respected and understood, and it will help her to understand what she is feeling, besides shame, fear, and discomfort.
Does your child spend forever gazing at something "mundane" like a bug, acorn, or flower?
Rather than scold, tease, belittle, or punish these nuances of behavior, work hard (very hard) to understand them. Ask yourself, what is my child seeing at this festival, or in this flower? How might it look different to her than to me? Have I seen this reaction or behavior before? When?
If you don't know the answers to these questions, observe more closely and ask your child:
- What are you seeing?
- Can you draw me a picture of the festival? What was the good part? What was the bad part?
These examples reveal hidden clues to discovering how your child sees the world. Remember, we are not trying to change things we think should be different. We are trying to understand our own unique children and all of their attributes.
After all, we are their advocates. We are the ones who know them best and help them navigate this world. If we try to suppress their unpleasant, embarrassing, or ugly behavior, then our children have the enormous burden of struggling to accept themselves when those closest to them don't.
Let's honor and celebrate our children as people with personalities, quirks, needs, desires, and yes, opinions.