Perception is reality to the person perceiving it. Each of us views the world in a different way and from a different perspective. Two people can look at the same thing and see it entirely differently. Any police officer that has taken a statement from more than one witness will tell you that. Each is correct in their own way. “It was a red sweatshirt.” or “ It was a maroon hoodie.” or “ It was a purple shirt.” The police can’t dismiss any of them.
It isn’t surprising then that your child’s perception (their reality) is different from yours. If a child’s response to a situation is over-the-top, take some time to try to process it with them and dig to find out what they are seeing that you aren’t. Try not to pass it off as if it was no big deal. The monster under the bed or in the closet isn’t always a procrastination technique to put off bedtime.
Does this mean that you should accept everything your child says without question? No. It does mean that you need to understand why the strong response is there if you feel that it is unwarranted. For example, many children are afraid of the dark. Even when nothing bad has happened, they are afraid. Have they heard noises or seen shadows? Have they seen something scary on TV or at the movies? What is their perception/reality? It isn’t “giving in” listen carefully and to plug in a night light or leave the door open a little. It isn’t “giving in” to check under the bed and in the closets to be sure that nothing scary is there. It acknowledges your child’s perception as valid and provides a solution that is okay for all. The time spent reassuring your child builds trust that is helpful as the child gets older.
Build trust by empathizing with the feelings of fear, anger, or frustration, listening carefully to what their concerns are. When they are done expressing themselves, you can move on from there. “I understand that you are frustrated because you have to share your toys. But Tommy shared his toys with you. That’s how things work. People share their things.” You have listened, empathized, and moved on. With that working model, your child should soon learn to express himself, deal with things and move on.
Adults as well as children spend a lot of time questioning their perceptions. “I should feel this way.” or “I shouldn’t feel that way.” I believe that your feelings are your feelings. Accept them. It’s what we do with those feelings that makes a difference.
Minimizing, ignoring, or negating a child’s perception/reality chips away at their self-esteem and makes them question their own thoughts, feelings, and instincts. Take the time to really listen before you respond. Is this maybe why so many of us question our own perceptions?
Comments are always welcome…