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Avoid Making Assumptions

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meeting kids where they are April

When was the last time you examined any assumptions you have made about your children? If you have not done this recently, follow the advice of Alan Alda, who said, “Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” Just as termites destroy homes, unquestioned assumptions destroy relationships.

As parents, we must stop making assumptions that imply meaning to behavior and complete false narratives. To stop the toxic practice of assuming, we must exercise our ability to see another person’s perspective and openly communicate even when something seems obvious. Empathy is the affective process that enables us to connect with how another person is feeling. If I notice a child sitting in the corner crying, empathy allows me to discern the child is experiencing a negative emotion. In contrast, perspective-taking is the cognitive process of correctly comprehending a circumstance through another person’s viewpoint. When adults make dangerous assumptions, it tends to be in perspective-taking.

Imagine all the assumptions you may make about the child in the corner crying. For example, you may think the child is sad, in pain, or overly sensitive. Without taking perspective, you may choose to act inappropriately based on your assumption. When we make assumptions without taking the time to communicate effectively, we make mistakes that hurt relationships.

I vividly remember getting sent to bed early for “pouting” in the 4th grade. My teacher moved me from the front of the classroom to the last row. I was heartbroken to be moved away from my friends and terrified to tell my parents because I thought I had done something wrong.

At the end of the night, I explained my angst when my mother stopped making assumptions about the cause of my “pouting” and helped me feel safe enough to talk. She helped me understand various other perspectives, “Maybe another student could not see or hear and needed to be moved forward. Maybe another student was getting in trouble in the back and needed to be closer to the teacher.” This was a “gold-star” moment in my mother’s parenting. Not only did she take the time to help me feel better, but she also modeled perspective-taking and created a bonding opportunity.

How often do we make assumptions about our children? You can only correctly take perspective if you have all the information. Find the right time and ask the hard questions before creating a narrative about your child that may not be true. Don’t make assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want.

Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

Don Miguel Ruiz

Dr. Beth Long received her education in Counseling Psychology from Chapman University. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Beth has worked in six unique clinical environments across the country and currently owns Works of Wonder Therapy in Montgomery. Beth utilizes the knowledge from a variety of different disciplines to give her patients the best care possible. To learn more visit www.worksofwondertherapy.com.

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