If possession is 9/10ths of the law, then perception is 9/10th of reality. That is why in order to achieve excellence- we must diligently seek the other 1/10th of reality by looking at things from a different perspective.
It amazes me how there are times I analyze a situation, take in the information and draw a conclusion that seems perfectly reasonable and then…. a new piece of information, another person’s observations, a key fact left out is shared and…. a whole different conclusion comes to light.
It happens all the time working with children. We see something, hear info and come to a conclusion. But when we stop and ask questions and seek understanding of each person. When we take the time to observe and explore all perspectives, often we find nuances to reality and sometimes seismic shifts in what we understood to be true.
In a world that has more and more mastered the art of guiding and even manipulating our understanding on everything from toothpaste, to vehicles, to politics… we need to actively practice looking from a different perspective. We need to ask people how they are perceiving the world around them, and we need to help our children understand what they feel. As our children develop we need to help them understand what is guiding those feelings and beliefs.
Even something as simple as: “Why do you want those snacks? – the ones with a popular media character on it – instead of the ones next to it? Is it flavor, better ingredients or something else?”
You’d be surprised how capable our children are at analytical thought when given the time and space to think deeply. Parents who can model that process in a fun way letting natural curiosity guide the discussion will find they have helped their child better navigate the world we live in – the world they are inheriting.
As parents it helps to get in a habit of asking children about their feelings and thoughts regularly and even more importantly create the habit of modeling the sharing of our own thoughts and feelings and how we came to those.
For example – when a child shares about a conflict they had with someone, here are some ways to model analytical thinking:
Acknowledge and define feelings: “Wow, I can imagine that was really frustrating or you sound like you are angry about that? Tell me more…”
Explore others perspective: “How did your friend feel about it? Did you ask them? Is this typical behavior for your friend? Can you imagine reasons why they may have felt that way?”
Decide the level of action: “Is this something that you can just be aware of and figure out a new way to handle the situation or is this something you need to work at to resolve. How often does this frustration occur, how much influence do you have in this person’s life, how capable is your friend of recognizing his or her feels and needs?”
Model your thought process as you are listening to them. “In my mind, I can imagine that your friend might have been really sleepy or not feeling well. Sometimes when my friends get grumpy, I get upset too, because they say something to me that doesn’t seem nice. But then I stop and think about the times I’ve been grumpy and I tell them – ‘You seem grumpy today. Let’s talk later when you feel better.”
You don’t have to nor should you fix your children’s conflicts. But as parents we must give them a framework for viewing other perspectives.
In a Montessori classroom, which is designed to allow freedom and exploration with a large group of children, we know and understand conflicts will happen and even welcome conflict – Yes, we actually welcome it. Without experiencing conflict and how to handle it in a safe environment, our children will grow up without the vital skills of conflict management. When children don’t handle conflict management well, the ability for their brain to work at full capacity is drastically truncated. The brain is working on the feelings and frustrations and can’t devote that time to creative problem solving. Adults who can’t activity resolve – (not just avoid)- but resolve conflict in their life will be just as crippled mentally.
So in a world of almost 8 billion people each with their own unique set of life experiences, let’s teach our children how to seek to understand those around them. It’s a big job and you, parents, were made for it!