By Meg Bamford
Head of Miriam School and Learning Center
Recently, I attended a workshop and the presenter asked us to listen to a recording of the classic Yanny and Laurel experiment. Here is the Youtube clip that he shared: Yanny Laurel (Original Video). Which word did you hear? During the workshop, I very clearly heard “Yanny” and couldn’t begin to understand how others heard “Laurel.” Now today, I can only hear “Laurel.” It is such a fascinating experiment and it led me to think about our children (and people in general) and how hard it is for them to see and understand another’s perspective when their own seems so very clear.
As I navigate life and work, I have come to appreciate that a person’s perspective is their reality. This is especially true when we believe our opinion, perspective, or thought is correct. For our Miriam children, coaching them to see beyond their “personal reality” takes considerable practice at each developmental phase they grow through.
In helping our children to navigate the very social world we live in, we try our very best to keep our children safe, feel loved, and be loveable. With that goal in mind, sometimes we have to say no, we have to tell our children when they have misbehaved, when their choices are not safe, when they are not being their best selves, or we believe that their perspective is off.
Psychologists warn us about what happens when people argue and defend their perspectives and opinions. Often those opinions actually will become more ingrained. There is also the aspect of inertia. People experience something called “cognitive dissonance” when they feel uneasy when the new information they are learning clashes with their existing knowledge or thoughts. Psychological studies show that most people would rather dismiss information than reshape their world views to accommodate this new perspective. For many of our students at Miriam, the exercise and commitment to doing this is even greater, given their neurodiversity. You can see why trying to have your child change her mind may be harder than you think.
Here are some hints that may open your child’s perspective:
- Try to remain neutral in your response, even if you think their perspective is completely cuckoo. Using tone, sarcasm, or yelling at them will not alleviate the situation. In fact, most likely, they will focus more on how you are saying something versus what you are saying.
- Remember their perspective is their reality.
- Ask questions. They will depend on the situation at hand. Examples could be: What do you think happened? Why is this important to you? How will this help you? What do you think I am going to say about this? What facts do you have to support this?
- Validate their perception even if it means just rephrasing what they believe. After they finish speaking, “So what you are telling me is…” By engaging in this activity you can make sure you are understanding what they are saying. As we know, there can sometimes be a disconnect between what children say and what they truly mean.
- Go back to the big picture (safety, showing your best self, etc.). Remember that children ultimately want connections.
- Render your decision/perspective. Stick to it. If your child has misbehaved, remind them that you will always love them, but you do not like the action they have done.
- Follow through with anything you problem-solved together.
- If the first “plan” doesn’t work after a day or so, visit the process again.
- If needed, write everything down so your child has a visual resource to refer to.
By trying to build bridges of understanding with your child, it stops the pattern of behavior of children becoming highly invested in the “fight” versus seeing the big picture issue. What I sometimes see with teenagers is that they can become fixated on a single detail versus the whole picture.
Please remember we are here to offer support as we help our children grow.