Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Perception and Misperception and Changing Perception

Hope everyone enjoyed their 4th of July and Canada Day celebrations!

Today's post is about perception; particularly, perceptions about people and friendships. For a period of time in a child's life, they are likely to miss cues from others or mis-characterize them. Many kids go through a phase where they read everything dramatically. Mine certainly did - for a while, it was not uncommon for one of the girls to come home from school and let me know that X didn't like her anymore. "How do you know?" I would ask. "Because she didn't save me a seat at lunch" or "Because she didn't laugh at my joke" or "Because she looked at me funny". Parents come to know that these dramatic conclusions about friends are par for the course. The challenge is holding back and not sounding dismissive while trying to toughen up your kid with a dose of realism. I used to tell our kids to buck up and not read too much into one glance or incident but I would balance it by also telling them that there are bound to be some people that really don't like them just as there are already some people that they don't like and that's life.

At some point, though, children develop sharper and keener perception and, as parents, it's important to turn the corner with them. When our daughters come home now and let me know someone doesn't like them, my first reaction (that I generally keep to myself) is a little like Seinfeld's mother, in the eponymous sitcom, when she was baffled at why anyone would not like her son? “How can anyone not like you?" Then I take a step back because I know that our daughters are generally past the point where their perception of themselves as they relate to others is shaky. I wouldn't be doing them any good at this point if I insisted that they were reading too much into a glance or a slight. If they're convinced that someone is tired of them or just doesn't like them anymore, then I've learned from experience, they're probably right. The fact that they've learned to read others well is an achievement. The message from mom is now vastly different from the message they used to get. I wouldn't suggest lauding the achievement when they've let you know someone doesn't like them but I would laud silently and then deal with the unhappiness as best you can. 

The funny thing about perception is that now, when our daughters have become incredibly perceptive about the way see and relate to others, their self-perception is more distorted than ever.

Things are not always as they appear. For a great beginner's look at perception and perspective, consider Craig Frazier's Bee & Bird. This beautiful, wordless picture books keeps you guessing and will keep your little one giggling.

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