The other day my son got into a fight on the school bus. It was brief and well handled, and it seems both boys have made up and are continuing on with life after experiencing a teachable moment.
While the fight was brief, it got me thinking about perspective. Listening to the different sides to their stories made my head spin, as their perspectives were completely different. But that’s ok. Learning perspective is a rite of passage into adulthood.
When my twins were younger, people would constantly make comments like they “could never handle two babies at once”, but for my husband and I, two babies was all we knew. They were our first. Two were our normal.
Stay at home moms have a different perspective from working moms. While our goals are the same – raising our children to become productive adults – our day to day lives are vastly different. Working moms might be struggling with the daily race to get everyone where they need to be before heading off to work. Meanwhile, stay at home moms might be looking for ways to reduce the feelings of isolation as they are surrounded by young children with no adult communication all day. The stay at home mom might wish for that time to talk to other adults, while the working mom might wish to spend more time with her kids.
Looking at the perspectives of other people will naturally breed empathy, which will help in conflict with our friends, spouses and children.
Take for example when my husband is late coming home from work. Initially, I could be grumpy that he’s not home, considering I’ve been working with the kids all day and I’m tired, the kids are hungry, and dinner is ready. But then I can look though my husband’s eyes – he could have gotten that last call that needed to be dealt with. There might have been an accident on the highway, or another delay that was out of his control. When I think of those things, well, I’ll still be grumpy (remember, I’m hungry!), but my urge to attack is lessened.
Same goes with parenting. I can use perception and empathy as a way to get to my kids level when they get in trouble.
Every morning, we struggle to get ready for school on time. While we have a routine in place, my one son’s favorite excuse is distraction.
“Mom, I was too distracted by the snow outside to put my socks on”.
“Mom, William was distracting me with that toy that makes the siren sound. How am I supposed to brush my teeth with him in the hallway?”
While I could get mad and frustrated that he’s not getting ready, I could also listen to him and try to eliminate the distraction. Of course I can’t stop it from snowing outside, I can move little brother out of the way so that he can continue to get ready.
Everyday, we can use this skill to help empathize with our families, friends and even strangers. To put ourselves in other people’s shoes and try to think about how they are feeling. Even if it doesn’t help the situation, it can alter our thinking and how we respond.