Assumptions about parenting cause suffering and exhaustion until we understand them. The dictionary definition of assumption is a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof. They are the beliefs and judgments we make instantly, the snap decisions based on fear and unrealistic expectations. They are often the words we heard our parents say; the words we swore we would never say to our kids. They must be questioned.
When we make assumptions about our children and ourselves, we are bound to get our buttons pushed and react in ways we hate and regret. It’s amazing how quickly our minds jump to conclusions as we picture our sweet four year old in jail by the time he’s fifteen.
We convince ourselves these assumptions are true and then feel overwhelmed, resentful, guilty, enraged – all because of something we’ve made up.
We need to question our assumptions and reframe them. Let’s look at a few typical ones:
1. My child is disrespectful. Wrong. Your child is reacting to something he doesn’t like with immature understanding. It feels disrespectful to you, but he is not being disrespectful. If you asked him, he would say he’s mad about something he doesn’t want to do. This is perfectly normal for a child.
Reframed: He doesn’t like what I asked or how I said it. He doesn’t mean disrespect; he means to get what he wants. That’s normal.
2. I’m a terrible parent. Not true. You are a perfectly fine parent who is caught off guard. You don’t know what to do right now and feel overwhelmed and frustrated. You need some space to calm down and think.
Reframed: I feel terrible. I’m saying things I hate. I need a break. I will know what to do later.
3. If this keeps up, my child will end up alone and friendless. No she won’t. You fear that your child will never learn how to get along with others. You forget that life experiences, feeling confident in herself, and age will moderate things considerably.
Reframed: My child is having a hard time connecting with other kids. She doesn’t know what to do yet.
4. Why is my child so mean? He’s not mean. He’s trying to get what he wants. When he is angry, he reacts impulsively.
Reframed: He feels insulted or treated unfairly. He doesn’t yet know how to handle the situation with patience. He will sooner or later.
5. I’ll never get a moment’s peace. You will if you take it. Your peace of mind is your problem, not your child’s to fix. Taking care of yourself is as important as taking care of your child.
Reframed: I will get some peace when I ask for help. I can’t do this alone. I need to do something for myself.
6. She never listens. Betcha she does – when she likes hearing what you say. Do you listen to her the way she wants you to? Children don’t listen when they feel blamed or don’t like the tone in which it is said.
Reframed: She doesn’t listen when I speak harshly or firmly. She’s afraid she’ll get in trouble. I can be more understanding of her desires even when she can’t have what she wants.
7. My child is being a problem. Wrong. His unacceptable behavior is the result of internal turmoil.
Reframed: My child is having a problem. His behavior shows me he is hurting inside and needs help in order to behave differently.
Reframing our assumptions allow us to view the same situation from a different perspective – allowing us to be more accurate. Assumptions are judgments. Reframed assumptions are observations.
Notice how you feel when you make an assumption. Now notice how you feel after reframing it. One stimulates upset, the other compassion and understanding. Isn’t that what you want when you make a mistake? If you want to respond calmly and helpfully rather than react like a crazy person, reframe your assumptions. You’ll be in a much better place to be an effective parent.
Tell us how these assumptions have worked for you! What other assumption have you reframed?