As the saying goes, ASSUME makes an ass out of YOU (U) and ME.
What that means is that when we come from assumption, we only have a portion of the factors
to be considered and potentially end up acting like an ass.
When we assume, we are looking through the filters of our own internal bias. While that is natural, it also limits us to only seeing what we expect to find or what we already know.
The problem with going with what we already know is, what if that’s not what’s the want/need or expectation of the other party?
This happens in parenting a lot, particularly in the early years when our child has no common sense, logic or reasoning skills, and all they do is what works. Where this comes to grief is that because a child only does what works to have their needs met, if we are meeting what we think they want, and it’s working. Well whoops, we may have created a negative loop that was never either party’s intention.
Let’s assume you are a believer in positive parenting. You are also against cry it out when a child has problems settling at night. So, when your child has difficulty settling, you may choose to rush in as soon as you hear any noise, so that they don’t get upset. In the process, what you may unintentionally do is train your child to cry if they can’t settle, so that you come rescue them.
Having used the cry it out method, the go to belief when my oldest was born, I do not advocate for CIO.
However, having also had a problem sleeper, aka baby from hell. What I learned is that we also need to be wiser in how we approach the process. Too much intervention creates dependence and habits, too little intervention creates disconnection.
The most important things to figure out are your child and their needs, and also what our boundaries and expectations are.
What can happen if we aren’t flexible is compounding the issue by doubting ourselves, and/or being mad at the child for not meeting what we expected “should” happen. Then one of two things tend to happen next.
Self-doubt leads to trying all different things, though often without appreciating what the real problem is that needs to be solved. In the process ends up compounding and reinforcing the negative loop that was forming. This happens because generally we are trying to fix our problem, which is how our child is behaving. When the problem that needs to be solved is what is bothering the child. (this might not be what happens for you, though is a common thread in these situations so something to be aware of).
If the child’s problem that needs to be solved is reassurance. The challenge then becomes, if they continue to be upset and we keep trying to figure out how to stop them being upset, we may miss the opportunity to reassure them in a healthy and conscious way. (This does rely on also considering the age appropriate expectations of our child’s ability to self-regulate). That doesn’t mean they can’t regulate it means they may need assistance or guidance to be ok within themselves.
It’s the whole philosophy behind the 5As in the work of David Richo shared in his book, “How to Be an Adult in Relationships”.
The 5As being Acceptance, Affection, Appreciation, Approval, and Attention.
When we didn’t receive the 5As as a child on a consistent basis, there is likely to be a gap in our emotional literacy and consequently our relational abilities.
This is where the principles of Validate, Empathise, Curiosity meet in the journey of raising emotionally well rounded adults who can reciprocate in adult to adult relationships.
Validation is the acceptance and appreciation of the child as and where they are.
Empathy is the affection for the child and approval of their right to their feelings.
Curiosity is the attention to ensure they feel seen and heard.
For those of us not raised this way, it can be a bit of a hard thing to do.
So many of us were raised in families where we were expected to deliver these things to some, if not all, the adults in our environment.
This is where our triggers originate. They are based on the choices we made as a child to keep us safe and keep our magical big people close.
They are termed magical big people because in the mind of a child all adults are all encompassing. They believe our literal words. If we tell them we know, they believe we know.
When we approach with grounded confidence, they can buy into our assurance.
Which enables them to feel safe and able to trust in the solution we are supporting them with.