Books

How You Can Promote Perspective Taking in Children

Mind in the Making: Skill 2 Perspective Taking

Some 13 years ago, hubby and I got a thousand piece puzzle of M.C. Escher’s “Waterfall” from Puzzle World in Wanaka, NZ. It had been kept in storage and I finally decided to work on it after so many years. We enjoyed his artworks on perspective illusion and visited an exhibition on his artwork in 2016 at the Art Science museum. It’s interesting as we put our mind to work in viewing the artwork from different perspectives.

Different people have different takeaways from the same piece of artwork. Our interpretation can be derived from experiences or what we see with our naked eye.

Very often, we find it difficult to comprehend why others think, react in a certain manner because our mind is clouded by our past experiences or the limited evidence presented before us. Situations like these calls for perspective taking. Such skills are increasingly essential as we face a rising generation who are becoming more vocal in their beliefs.

“Mind in the Making” Book Club Sharing

Last week, during a book club sharing we discussed skill 2, perspective taking, from the book Mind in the Making by Ellen Galinsky (Seven essential life skills every child needs). Ellen listed 9 suggestions on how you can promote perspective taking in children and I am going to share a few that resonates with me.

Practice what we preach

Knowing parenting theories won’t mean a thing if we don’t practice it because parents are the greatest role model. We need to practice what we preach consistently!

View teaching children to be with others as equally important to teaching them independence

While connecting with others is as important as independence, kids need to first manage themselves before they can practice perspective taking in a positive way. We need to help our kids develop independence; exposure to different situations, teach self-help skills through chores, letting them fight their own battles and imposing natural consequences. Such skills are also built on (skill 1) focus and self-control.

As kids begin to be with others, problems and issues are bound to arise and Ellen suggested a six step “Dilemma Resolving Technique”. We need to teach children perspective taking along with problem solving.

  1. Identify the dilemma, problem or issue
  2. Determine the goal
  3. Come up with alternative solutions
  4. Consider how these alternative solutions might work
  5. Select a solution to try
  6. Evaluate the outcome, and if the solution isn’t working, try something else

Understand that a Warm & Trusting Relationship is the Strongest Foundation for Learning Perspective Taking

Children who feel listened to, who feel understood become better listeners and understand others. We are not our children, they need respect and we need to understand their viewpoints.

Use Everyday Moments

Lastly, a very practical suggestion, which I believe most of us are already practicing – use everyday moments to build the skill of perspective taking by talking about other people’s perspective! It can be someone’s action at the playground, an advertisement or a pieces of news we just heard. Books are key in my household as we practice perspective taking. Picture books’ illustrations are great as I would pose questions to invoke their feelings and thoughts.

Take the story of “Rhinos Don’t Eat Pancakes” for example. The girl and the purple rhino built a trusting friendship over time but it was time for the rhino to leave to be back with his family. As they hugged before the rhino boards the plane; how do you think the girl and the rhino feel? When the girl got home, she sees traces left behind by the rhino, how does she feel? Why? Is there anything that can make her feel better?

Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6

Finally, let’s also be mindful to strike a balance in perspective taking, not to over speculate and overthink about others’ viewpoint that you neglect yourself.

Check out Skill 1: Focus and Self-control here.

Experiencing God

Parenting with the Fruit of the Spirit

“A soothing tongue is a tree of life but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 15:4

The catchy tune of “Fruit of the Spirit” by Uncle Charlie has been a recent favourite on the girls’ playlist and they managed to pick up the tongue twisting lyrics in no time. Living our lives with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control is a lot more daunting than singing it. Head knowledge does not translate to daily life application and God sees the latter. God sees our heart.

I had created fruit of the spirit family devotion, decorated Christmas tree with the nine fruits of the spirit previously and repeatedly told the girls off for not applying what they learn. It’s always easy to tell the girls’ the expected behavior in a situation but yet as an adult I can’t behave as I should when I am put in a difficult situation.     

Modelling good behaviour and living a godly life to my girls has proven to be a daily challenge and God presented me a test.

Couple weeks back, hubby came into the bedroom with a letter in hand as I was about to read the bible to the girls before their bedtime…

Hubby: “You had the car last Wednesday morning right? Speeding ticket; $150 fine plus 4 demerit points.”

Oh my, it’s like returning the GST vouchers I just received! I recalled after finding out the location of the mentioned offence. I had brought older Gem to the zoo that morning before picking younger Gem from school and the fuel tank was running low. Knowing hubby needed the car that evening, I decided to be nice and make a detour, a deviation from the usual route, to fill up the tank for him. The following was my response/excuse in my defence.

Me: “Ya la, blah blah blah… had to fill up the tank for you. All your fault.”

Why did that even come out from my mouth? All the fruits of the spirit I know and taught crushed in the bin. No love, no joy, no peace, no patience, no kindness, no goodness, no faithfulness, no gentleness, no self-control. The ugly side of me displayed before my girls. I know speeding has no connection to the route, to me being nice to go pump petrol etc. but the natural reaction just like Adam and Eve was playing the blame game; creating excuses.

Oh, I just wanted to dig a burrow and hide! Ashamed of the summon, my reaction and in my heart, I remembered I took the same route the day before, anxious if I will get another summon.   

As parents, hubby and I quickly turned this into a lesson for the girls. A negative example, exactly what we should not do because mummy made the wrong choice and my reaction is not pleasing to God.

There was no love as I thought only for myself.

There was no joy as my reactions did not reflect my sovereign God was in control.

There was no peace as I was anxious about receiving another summon.

There was no patience as I sped.

There was no kindness in helping to top up fuel as true kindness does not expect anything in return.

There was no goodness. I was not ready to give.

There was no faithfulness as my actions did not glorify God.

There was no gentleness in my speech for playing the blame game.

There was no self-control as I spoke in haste.

One of those days where you rate yourself a zero for parenting! Let me try to be better tomorrow!

Anyway, hubby furnished my particulars and I have since received the notice. The Traffic Police has very kindly treat this incident as a warning. Thank you very much!

Books

Helping Your Child Develop Focus and Self Control

One of the new activities I took up this year was to join a book club. The book club is organised by younger Gem’s school for parent volunteers and meets monthly. The inaugural book club meet took place in April and Beth Fredericks, an early childhood specialist, was invited as a speaker, highlighting the importance of exercising executive functions from a young age.   

Focusing on executive functions, “Mind in the Making” by Ellen Galinsky is the book the club will be discussing throughout this year. The book identifies seven essential life skills every child needs. I reckoned, every parent needs! There are quizzes in the book to help us identify areas we need to work on and some practical ideas for us to engage our kids to focus and practice self control.

Just a few days ago, the book club met again to discuss the first skill, focus and self control. Here are my 2 key takeaways from reading chapter one and the book club sharing.

A Well Rested Mum is a Super Mum!  

I believe the optimal way to teach our children focus and self control is us parents modelling in our daily lives. There are days I feel like a super mum, checking off to-do list in lightning speed, cook all healthy meals and making effort to look at the girls at eye level while conversing but the next day… lacklustre… It is not rocket science to identify the common characteristic for my super mum days; sufficient sleep! When I am well rested, I am calmer and able to focus and pay attention to the needs of my girls. So now I need to work on my inhibitory control, to spend more time studying the bible, less Netflix and Disney+ and sleep early (cause my girls wake up at six-ish!).

Encourage Your Child to Identify their “Lemonade Stand”

A practical way to develop focus and self control – Ellen Galinsky uses a lemonade stand as a metaphor for something that your child cares about. The idea derived from watching a bunch of kids who put in their heart and mind into making their lemonade stand succeed. Basically, when you are motivated to achieve a goal, you will be able to focus and practice self control to attain it. Therefore, encourage your child to find their “lemonade stand.” “Lemonade stand” may change or evolve as they grow older. At the moment, I believe dancing is older Gem’s “lemonade stand”, while she may not be an excellent dancer, the joy she exudes while dancing is contagious.