Some of the decisions we make as parents are based on inaccurate assumptions. We may know exactly what we are thinking and what we mean, but the child may have a completely different perspective. Consider these two examples:
A father is walking through the forest with his three-year old daughter. As they are walking, he repeatedly tells her to stay on the path. The little girl is walking all around. She looks at a tree, then a bush, and meanders here and there. The father continually says, “Stay on the path. I told you to stay on the path.” Eventually, he gets so angry with her that he pulls her over, shakes her a bit, and shouts, “I told you to stay on the path!” The little girl looks up at him with tears in her eyes and says, “Daddy, what’s a path?”
The youngster says to his mother, “I’m hungry. Can I have a snack?” His mother says, “Sure. Help yourself.” The boy takes two cookies from the jar in the kitchen cupboard. He then hears his mom say, “You can have an apple or an orange.” The youngster thinks, “Are we both speaking the same language?” The youngster assumes two cookies would be a good snack. His mother’s definition is quite different.
As is emphasized in the books Discipline Without Stress and Parenting Without Stress, one technique to reduce parental stress is to check for understanding.