I met a friend in the supermarket and she said, I loved your last piece but next time you write an article it needs to be for kids, teaching them to see the world through their parent’s eyes. I said laughingly, “That would never work!”
But she got me thinking and the more I thought about it I realized that it is important to teach kids to understand us, and our perspective. We do need to instruct our kids on how to put themselves in our shoes. It will help improve their emotional intelligence, have compassion for everyone regardless of age and will also aid them in respecting us and recognizing our position as authority figures in their lives (See this article on why this is important: Respecting Parents: Old Fashioned Values Are Back Again)
Teaching our kids to see our perspective is not an easy task. It can be compounded by the fact that kids seem so selfish. In their worst moments, we can’t imagine that they would ever be able to see our point of view. But it can and needs to be done.
Teaching kids to see the world from an adult’s point of view is just another one of those life lessons that we need to impart to our kids. We need to start young. Most important we do not need to be punitive in order to do the job right.
It is tough though. Parents, (me included) have a hard time overlooking our kid’s self-centered behaviors. We tend to come down on them hard.
Take these examples: It can be pretty frustrating when you finally sit down to dinner and your child says, “Ma, there is no ketchup on the table!” I know it takes a lot of self-control to keep myself from yelling or lecturing, “Really, I can’t believe you! I just sat down to eat. Do you know how long I have been working to get dinner on the table…Get it yourself.”
It can also be challenging when you are ready to leave for an important appointment and your child refuses to go and is getting ready to launch into a full- scale temper tantrum. We are right when we think, “Really! This kid is so inconsiderate and clueless.”
It is helpful to know that kids do not want to misbehave they are usually just acting normally for their age. Young children don’t always act in positive ways because they are truly egocentric. Developmentally they are not always able to see things from the viewpoint of an adult or even another child. It is a stretch for them to imagine how another person may feel or think. They have just begun to make sense of their own thoughts and feelings. They haven’t had enough life experiences. Even teens have a hard time, they haven’t matured enough to “put themselves in the shoes” of another person.
So, what can we do to help kids see our point of view? Here are 4 ways to help kids gain perspective, learn compassion for the adults in their lives and teach kids to respect us:
Empathizing with kids and respecting their negative feelings is truly the best way to teach our kids to see our perspective. When we empathize and reflect their feelings, they learn to name their own emotions. Ironically, this is the first step in helping them understand and sense the feelings of others.
When kids are upset we can say the following:
“You seems sad…”
“You seem angry…”
“You look frustrated…”
Naming their feelings helps kids to become emotionally literate and comfortable with their wide range of emotions. This will give them the language they need to be supportive and compassionate to others.
2. An ounce of prevention:
The best way to teach kids to see our perspective is to let them know beforehand what our needs are and what is expected of them:
“When I sit down to dinner, I need to eat without getting up again. After I am finished I can help you or you need to help yourself.”
“Today we have an important doctor’s appointment. I am going to need all the cooperation you have. When I tell you it is time to leave, we are going to have to go right away. You might want to prepare a book or a game to take with you.”
3. Teach them gently:
When I am in the middle of a serious bout of multitasking, cooking dinner, making arrangements for a play date on the phone, 5 minutes before I have to rush out to do carpool, the last thing I want to hear from my child is:
“Mom, I like this sweater in this catalogue, can you order it for me?”
I usually need to take a deep breath and remind myself that this child cannot read my mind. I need to tell her what I am going through and help her see my predicament.
I can say (without sarcasm):
“Honey, take a look at me for a second. What do you see? I am cooking dinner, talking on the phone, and I have to leave in 5 minutes to do carpool. I cannot help you right now. Actually, I can use some help from you. Here is a carrot that needs to be peeled. I would love to look at the catalogue, later on tonight.”
The worst is when I am carrying packages of groceries in from the car and my son starts asking, “Mom, I didn’t have any lunch, can you make me lunch and then drive me to Sammy.”
Again, I need to take a deep breath. I need to remind myself that he really does not mean to be selfish; he really can’t see that I need help. Then I can say:
“Honey, take a look at me for a second. What do you see? I am carrying in packages. This is the time for you to ask me if I need help and I do. There are some more packages that need to be brought in from the car. After that we will talk about lunch and Sammy.”
As we mentioned before the best way to teach is to let them know what is expected of them:
“As soon as we get home I am going to need to cook dinner. I also have to make a phone call and then run out to pick up your brother’s carpool. I am going to need all the help you can give me for the next 20 minutes.”
“Guys, I am going to the supermarket. I will be home in about a half-hour. I will need some help unloading packages from the car. I would appreciate it if you would come right when I call…”
4. Role model:
Another way we can teach our kids to put themselves in our shoes is to role model compassion for others:
We can say:
“Looks like Daddy had a rough day. He looks like he can use a hug and a kiss. We need to let him relax tonight…”
“Grandma is feeling a little sad tonight. Her friend is not well. Let’s see if we can cheer her up…
Teaching kids to see our point of view can be a bit tricky. Hopefully, by empathizing, preparing them in advance, teaching them gently and role modeling, we can do just that.
Want to learn more ways to improve your child’s emotional intelligence?
Learn with Dr. Shira Wiesen:
Emotional IQ: Empowering Our Children To Become Smarter Emotionally