When we joined the parent club, we knew parenthood would inevitably come with ups and downs. While we planned for late nights and tantrums, many of us were caught off guard by the perplexities that came with trying to understand our child’s behaviors and thoughts. And, this isn’t just a problem for parents who are raising children on the spectrum; it happens to all of us!
At some point, all children will confuse or frustrate us on some level, simply because we don’t see things from their perspective. Taking a few minutes to see the world from our sons’ and daughters’ eyes will allow us to be more sensitive, patient, and supportive to their needs. Understanding our child’s point of view can change everything, ranging from how we encourage, arrange schedules, teach, and even discipline.
The Value of Perception
As parents of kids with Autism or other special needs, understanding can be especially challenging, because we need to look at the world from our child’s perspective. This can be trying for many of us, because depending on a child’s ages or development, they may struggle to put their emotions and point of view into words. To make this task even more difficult, perceptions are solely based on our personal lives experiences, temperaments, and personalities. So, it should come as no surprise that we often perceive the world quite differently than our children.
We need to remember that no matter our age, all of us have an innate need to be valued, heard, and understood. Far too often, conflicts and misbehavior arise with children when these emotions are not being met. Parents must get to the source of a child’s actions so we can fulfill their needs and help them thrive. Shifting our perspectives to uncover a child’s true intentions and behaviors allows us to develop empathy and creative problem-solving skills as we raise our children.
Unfortunately, gaining a true understanding of a child’s point of view takes time and curiosity. We need calmly ponder the inner thoughts our child was pondering before, during, and after the moment. For example, a child constantly throws books on the floor. On reflection, we might realize she is angry and doesn’t have the words to express herself or she likes the sound of the noise or, maybe, she wants our attention and knows we will sit with her to put them away. We could go on and on, because each child’s perception relies heavily on their personality and temperament.
Temperament, Personality, and Perspective… Oh My!
A simple way to understand our child’s perspective is to talk or find about what matters the most to him or her. It’s also important to take into consideration a child’s age and development. At different stages, children might see crying as a way to get attention or they may believe in magic. As they age, it might become important to have certain toys or clothing. These viewpoints might seem irrational to us, but to our sons and daughters, they are very real and important.
At times understanding a children’s motivation can be overwhelming. However, the key to unlocking our child’s point of view involves examining a child’s temperament. Temperament is a group of traits a child is born with to make sense of the world. A child’s personality is formed by their unique combination of temperament traits, which gives them their characteristic pattern of thinking, feeling, and behaving. Knowing this information can help a parent understand a child’s point of view.
To help understand a child’s temperament and decode a child’s personality, answer the following questions:
- Is my child inactive or active?
- How easily does my child adapt to change?
- Do they withdraw or embrace new situations?
- Are they easily distracted or do they stay on task?
- How intensely does a child react?
- Is my child’s mood typically happy or unhappy?
- Is my child’s behavior predictable?
- Does she stick with activities when faced with interruptions or challenges?
- What is the level of stimulation needed to trigger responses in my child?
Putting All the Pieces Together
After answering the above questions, we can better recognize how a child perceives the world around them to anticipate their responses to certain scenarios. Our most passionate, intense, or feisty children are often creative and make things happen. Thoughtful and sensitive people are often great listeners and have the ability to empathize with others. We also need to remember that no matter how predictable a child’s personality might be, there will be times that they catch us off guard. For example, a child who doesn’t make eye contact might look you directly in the eye and have a conversation. Or a child who doesn’t like loud noises sails through a trip to the grocery store.