If there is one thing that throws a wrench in our parenting—in fact, all relationships—it’s ASSUMPTIONS. An assumption is, of course, just a thought, but one we often mistakenly confuse with the truth. I cannot tell you how many times I have assumed one of my daughters (or my mother, husband, colleague) is operating with a certain sinister motive. When I slow down enough to look and listen again, I discover that the motive at work is actually quite pure. Most people and children are not “out to get us.” Most people are just trying to get through life the best they know how—and children, often, with a great sense of joy. Although children don’t know all the societal rules and behaviors we grown-ups consider sacrosanct. Quite often, their behaviors are simply a reflection of their not having learned what "proper" behavior looks like.
So, when we see a child in act in a certain way, a whole flurry of thoughts can occur for us, as parents--assuming a motive, projecting the action into the future (certain doom for our beloved child!), projecting images of ourselves as "good" or "bad" parents, and assuming our child should "know better" somehow.
I’m embarrassed to admit that once, when my older daughter was “hiding” out in her room and not wanting me to come in, I assumed she was somehow up to no good. (I admit I also felt hurt that she did not want me to come in.) In the end, she was working on a surprise present for me! As I wrote last month, we respond to our (often untrue)thoughts, and not the current reality. When we can take a pause and question our own assumptions—about others, and even about ourselves—appropriate action, love and compassion arise in the space we have freed in our minds. It is often not what we know, or think we know, that helps us most on this parenting journey—it is how willing we are tonot know.
Ami Chen Mills-Naim is your Mystical Mama, a member of the Westlake School Site Council, Education Director at the Center for Sustainable Change, a family coach & author of The Spark Inside: A Special Book for Youth, & the forthcoming, State of Mind in the Classroom. Send your comments or questions to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.