Why Parent and Child May Remember and View Things Differently


By Ron Hindbaugh M.A.


Did you ever listen in to the conversations between your children and their friends? If you have, you have discovered that your children live in a different world then you do. As parents we sometimes forget that fact. We somehow feel that our children are "flesh of our flesh" and see things the same way we do. In reality our children live lives separate from ours and see things in their own unique way. We are travelers with them but, their view of the scenery may be much different than ours.

Even before birth, the child is integrating the experiences that are presented to it into a pattern that helps them make sense of the world about them. They struggle for order in their world. Maintaining this order is a process of constant integration of the new with the old.

As the child grows new experiences help him/her to confirm or modify the conclusions that are being reached about the world. Experiences, especially early experiences, are extremely important in the framing of the child's "logic set" or way of looking at the world. But it is the child’s agency, or choice that is critical in determining how memories are created. The way your child thinks about you and how the child perceives his/her world sets the stage for how they view and interpret what is happening to them. What actually takes place in a child’s life is not what the child reports. It is the child’s interpretation of the past that they report. What implication does this have for parents?

This means that, if your child tries to convince you that you are the meanest person in the world that you hear what they have to say, you evaluate what they have said, but, if you know that your behavior is in the child's best interest, you do not change or condemn yourself. You recognize that your child's interpretation is just that, an interpretation, not a fact. When you recognize that your child has concluded that the world is against him/her, argument or explanation will not help. When you recognize that your child has chosen to think only of him or her, rather than trying to understand the other person’s point of view, objective discussions will not help.

If your child is telling everyone how you have hurt him or her recognize his or her thinking for what it is, victim thinking. They will even embellish the facts to assure that their way of thinking is convincing to others. This is what they want to believe. It justifies their decisions. If a child is convinced that others do not understand their plight in life, there is nothing you can do to alter this thinking. They need to decide, on their own, to make the choice to trust and understand. This decision cannot be forced.

A good way to keep your own thinking straight, as a parent, is to find someone who will be honest with you. This can be a good friend, a minister, a counselor, or a relative. Find a time when you can just talk to them and get an outside opinion. Don't ask them what you should do just ask them if you seem to have an accurate picture of what is happening with you child. Once you know that you have an accurate picture and are not distorting things yourself, form a plan of action.

This plan of action can be short term or long term, depending on the problem. This plan should be one intended to keep you on the straight and narrow, not control your child. If the plan means that your child, because of his or her choices, has to suffer, make sure the suffering is not overwhelming but do not try to alleviate this suffering. The suffering is what will help your child decide they may be distorting the truth. The child needs to recognize the lies they are telling themselves.

Your child sees the world from a logic set that has been slowly created. Many factors have helped them to frame their view of the world. To avoid discouragement, lecturing, or blaming yourself for your child’s way of looking at the world, recognize this fact. All individuals choose the attitude they have toward you and the world. They make decisions based on that interpretation of the world.

Some suggestions that may be of benefit as you guide your child’s thinking are as follow:

1.    Know and remember who you are.

2.    Love your child, in spite of their silly interpretation of the world.

3.    Take the action you know is necessary to keep you strong.

4.    Do what you know is best, in a gentle way, for your child no matter how they protest.

5.    Have faith that, in time, your child will correct his/her current misinterpretation of the world.