In our previous two blogs, we pointed out several reasons why interactions between adults and children can often fail. The first reason we outlined was:
1) The adult point of view dominates the conversation. The younger mind does not have the understanding to imagine what the adult is talking about. The adult may be using words the child understands, even speaking calmly and patiently; however, the child has not developed the thoughts to fully imagine what is being said. The adult point of view takes for granted too many thoughts that are unknown by the child.
As a parent, it is easy to think that your child understands what you’re saying, especially if you are using a calm voice and are talking slowly and deliberately. You can see your child is looking at you as you’re speaking, and maybe even nodding his head as if he understands. I’ve even specifically asked my daughter, “Do you understand?” and she’ll respond with a “yes ma’am” and then proceed to disobey me or ask me a question about what I just explained. It can get frustrating to have to repeat myself several times, as I’m sure you’re aware if you’ve ever interacted with toddlers.
However, it immediately became less frustrating for me once I realized that my daughter doesn’t have the same grasp of concepts (and even some words or phrases) that I do, no matter how smart I think she is for her age. How could she? She is only three, after all, and has only accumulated three years of experience in life compared to my 29. I can speak as calmly or as slowly as I want or repeat things over and over again, but if I’m talking about something that she hasn’t truly learned about yet, I might as well be talking to a wall.
Just because I know what I mean when I say something like, “Don’t walk into the road, please” doesn’t mean my daughter knows what I mean by that. I don’t want her going into the road for her own safety. But she doesn’t know that getting hit by a car would hurt — she’s never seen anything get hit by a car and seen for herself the damage it could cause.
Just because I know what I mean when I say something like, “Please don’t pull on the dog’s ears like that,” doesn’t mean she understands that it hurts the dog, especially if he’s a patient dog and doesn’t cry out or snap at her.
Just because I know what I mean when I hold my finger to my lips or hold my hand up for quiet when I’m on the phone doesn’t mean she understands that I need her to be quiet for a minute.
As the adult with much more life experience and knowledge, it is up to me to understand what my child does and doesn’t know. It is up to me to Teach her what she doesn’t know, to Encourage her to learn more and try new things, to Listen when she is trying to tell me something about her world, and to Love her through it all.