Family Matters: Why Too Many Parents Misunderstand Their Kids

Every parent knows what it’s like to be frustrated with their kids. Let’s face it, trying to raise a child is a demanding job that requires all the emotional strength you can bring to it. But many times when we misunderstand our children, it’s not the child’s fault. After all, kids are just being kids. What they do is often simply the product of them not knowing better.

So how can we understand our children better? Start by learning these common traps that experts say often lead parents to misinterpret what their kids are doing.

Expecting kids to be able to do things before they’re ready
One of the most common ways that parents fail to understand their children is by demanding that kids do things on the parent’s timetable. For example, many parents dictate that their children clean their entire room from start to finish. It sounds good in theory, and cleanliness is certainly a good habit to foster. But many kids don’t have the organizational skills to effectively put things away with some kind of an order. So the child often becomes frustrated at first. To avoid such conflicts, treat every expectation as a potential lesson. If you stop and think about it, even the smallest task is new for a child the first time they do it.

Getting angry when kids don’t meet your expectations
A child can only do so much. They’re limited by their age, and the general cognitive development level that comes with it. Sure, maybe your friend’s daughter is an absolute whiz, even compared to kids who are years older than her. Or maybe your neighbor’s son is the most responsible kid on the planet. But no two kids are alike. What may be most parent’s idea of “normal” abilities for a six-year-old may not be the case for yours. Let your child do things at his or own speed and abilities. And when your child doesn’t perform to your expectations, step back, encourage, and teach them. They’ll get it, if you give them time and direction.

Distrusting a child’s motives
Parents all too often judge their kids by what they see on the surface. For example, a parent might look at the mess in the kitchen and start yelling. But what if the child was just trying to make you a snack? That’s a nurturing behavior — a positive thing for a child to exhibit. And oftentimes negative behaviors are rooted in real needs that the child has. Is your child suddenly lashing out at you? Maybe he or she is getting sick, or is in some kind of pain. Children often don’t have the communication skills to simply come out and express their needs, so the underlying causes are hidden by other behaviors. As a parent, it’s crucial to look at the motives, not so much the outward behaviors.

Forgetting that kids follow their parent’s example
If your child has suddenly begun doing something that you don’t approve of, start by asking them where they learned that behavior. You might be surprised to find out they learned it at home. As adults, we all have habits that are inappropriate, unhealthy, or generally unpleasant. Try as we may to keep these habits hidden, sometimes they slip out. And children are masters at observing and analyzing their world around them – especially when it concerns mom or dad.