I remember Don Knotts drawing on a courtroom chalkboard during an episode of Mayberry RFD: Ass|U|Me. “When you assume,” he said, “You make an ass out of you and me.”
Who says there’s nothing to learn from television? Think about how often you take action based on what you assume about a situation when really you don’t know for sure. This can trigger a cycle of miscommunication that can spiral out of control and interfere with our relationships.
When You Assume...
Say your child has been in trouble at school because she has forgotten her homework. You only find out because her teacher calls you. “But, Mom, I didn’t want you to get mad.” (Which is exactly what you are because she didn’t tell you!) She made an assumption about your response, and that prevented open communication.
It goes both ways, too! The best way to teach your kids to stop making assumptions is to stop making assumptions yourself! It’s not easy, but it’s definitely a pattern you can change. Make the distinction between what you know and what you think you know. Or take a different approach and use the positive parenting strategy ABI - Assume Best Intention.
Assume Best Intention
When our kids are not following directions, we tend to jump to the conclusion that they are being disrespectful or disobedient. But more often than not, it’s not actually true. When you start with the assumption that your child is trying hard and wants to do his or her best, it actually helps your child to do her best!
Think about how hard it can be for your kids to know what they’re supposed to do, know what they “should” be able to do, to see their friends and siblings doing what’s expected, and not be able to do it themselves. Seriously, that is incredibly frustrating for them!
When you start with this perspective, you are less likely to jump on little mistakes and more likely to acknowledge when things are harder than they seem like they should be. It goes a long way to avoiding major upsets, too, because very often, our kids‘ meltdowns come from feeling misunderstood. It also gives you a different perspective to approach problem-solving.
So when your child isn’t listening, or following directions, or is so easily distracted that you want to pull your hair out, remind yourself that it is likely not a case of “willful disobedience.” Don’t assume it’s because they’re lazy or don’t care. Instead, assume that your child is trying her best, and watch how that changes the way that you approach situations that are really frustrating – for everyone.