How to Understand Your Kid’s Point of View
In this article we will discuss how inviting your child’s input will help you understand his/her point of view.
The best way to get the facts you need to check your assumptions and expectations is to ask your kid!
There are effective ways to get your child’s perspective, get the facts you need, and ask your child’s opinion. However, some parents have told me that when they try to do this, their kids report feeling interrogated. I have a few secrets to help you successfully “invite” your kid’s input, and ask questions that won’t make your kid feel judged, interrogated, or defensive.
Just the facts…
a) Begin with a simple fact-based statement.
Make sure this statement is based on facts only and not emotionally charged. It should be benign in nature, and not point a finger or place blame.
Here’s an example of such a statement: “I found the blue coffee cup had been chipped and glued back together. It was cleaned and put away back behind the dishes in the cupboard where it doesn’t belong.
b) Allow time for your child to respond.
For example, once you’ve made a statement similar to the one above, about the blue coffee cup, wait, and let your kid make a choice about sharing what he/she knows about this matter. Keep in mind the possibility that your kid may not know anything about it at all.
c) Offer a chance for your child to explain.
This is necessary if your kids is not participating in the dialogue you initiated. You made a fact-based comment and allowed time for your kid’s response, but if you don’t get the response in a reasonable time, then you want to take further action.
For example, “Johnny, do you know anything about the blue coffee cup and how it ended up being fixed and put in with the dishes? If you know anything, I would appreciate your sharing with me…”
d) Respect the fact that you don’t have all the information…
and your child is “innocent until proven guilty”. By inviting your kid’s input, you form an allegiance with him/her. When your kid feels like part of your mystery-solving team or is asked to share information, he/she shouldn’t feel defensive. This is because your kid won’t feel judged or accused if you’re just asking for information to help you solve a problem.
Here’s another way you could pose the question in the above example: “Johnny, I would love your help in solving the mystery. I appreciate any information you have about the coffee cup.”
e) Create a safe zone so your child isn’t scared of telling you the truth.
This way, your kid won’t be afraid of the consequences of his/her actions, or the consequences of getting someone else in trouble for telling on them.
For example: you could say, “Whoever is actually responsible for the blue coffee cup incident is not in any big trouble…”
f) Show your kids that you trust them to do the right thing.
One of the easiest ways to show trust is just to say you trust your kid. For example, “Johnny, you know I trust you to do the right thing and tell me the truth.” And then give your kid some time…
The strategies described so far can be effective in allowing your children to feel respected, trusted, heard, and empowered. Because they don’t feel judged or accused, your kids feel respected. By being asked for their input and opinions, your kids feel trusted and heard. And by having a chance to help, respond, and even do the right thing, your kids feel empowered. Congratulations – you have created happy kids!
Don’t forget to praise and reinforce your kid’s good choices when he/she helps you solve a mystery, admits to making a mistake, or takes responsibility for doing something wrong. When kids end up doing the right thing, they need to be rewarded by a kind word, feedback, or some form of praise.
What really happened to the blue coffee cup?
The little girl (8 year-old Christine) admitted to being the one who fixed the cup and hid it behind the dishes, but it turned out she wasn’t the one who broke it. The dishwasher was the culprit!
Christine’s job was to empty the dishwasher, and when she went to put the blue cup away, the handle came off in her hand. A little investigation revealed that the cup was not dishwasher safe. Inadvertently, Mom had placed the cup in the dishwasher. Christine felt responsible and tried to do what she thought was right. After all, the cup was her mom’s favorite, so she’d tried to repair it the best way she could. Her guilt had prevented her from telling her mother the truth before Mom found the cup.
Christine’s mom explained that as much as she appreciated Christine’s sense of responsibility, if Christine had come to her in the first place, her mom would have realized her own mistake (of putting the cup in the dishwasher), and would have even helped Christine repair the cup.
Christine felt appreciated, and more importantly, she felt empowered to tell her mom the truth right away next time. This sense of empowerment in being honest is essential to building the girl’s character and shaping her future behaviors.
Dr. Sherkat is a parent strategist who is available to do Parent Education Workshops, either Private or PTA Sponsored Classes.
Contact her at 425-772-6698.