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Perception is Everything
writes, "In lieu of my normal writing I want to share some of my favorite thoughts / quotes that speak to our experiences growing up as well as our own children's."
"A person's behavior springs from his ideas. We should not be surprised by this because our senses do not receive actual facts, but merely a subjective interpretation of them. It is not the child's experiences which dictate his actions, it is the conclusions he draws from his experiences. We determine ourselves by the meaning we give to situations." Alfred Adler

Take in all my previous blogs about the purpose of your child's behavior and how to address it. Great information for us in managing behavior, however, the other layer to it is the information the child takes away and how they create their concepts of self worth from that.

Our interactions will influence those around us in ways we could never imagine. We can ask ourselves one important question: What sense of meaningfulness do our children take from the daily interactions we have with them?

Shannon Miles, MFT

Shannon, I truly like this article. Only I am not certain how my 5 year old niece gains a sense of meaningfulness from our daily interactions. We are together every other week and enjoy activities like tennis and walking dogs and going to the park. I want her to remember these times as good times and build a good relationship with her. Tonight she said she had a "really great day". We are exploring hot springs this memorial day weekend and today was her first. Any ideas on how I can help her to have the confidence to swim? She knows how in her own pool at home, but would not swim in the hot pool.

-- mrmac, May 26, 2012 10:24pm
Shannon is out of town on vacation this weekend, but I let her know about your comment and she should be replying shortly. Thanks!

-- admin, May 27, 2012 02:20pm
Thank you for your comment and question. It sounds like your niece is a very lucky girl to have such a caring and involved family member. The memories she is accruing from all of these wonderful experiences will likely fuel her life in a positive way. Your writing seems to be triggered by the idea of perceptions related to her memories. In the example you give about swimming in the hot springs it seems to be you are concerned about her having a 'negative' experience or that she may perceive something unfavorably. In the case of perception we can do our best to bring a positive influence, relationship and memories and yet other influences in the child's life may lead her to perceive them in ways you did not intend. We are not in control of that. However, when we are with children our role is to follow their lead.

In this case if your niece is not behaving favorably to swimming in the hot springs where she seems confident and excited to swim in the pool she is communicating on a behavioral level something she is experiencing on an emotional level. This is the time to use a very simple and effective communication strategy.

1. Speak to her about what you observe. "I notice that you are not swimming here the way you swim at home in the pool."

2. Acknowledge / open the dialogue about her emotions. "I wonder if you might be feeling anxious about swimming somewhere other than a pool." She will tell you if you're wrong.

3. Ask her about what she needs to feel more confident or to be successful. "How can I help you to enjoy swimming here?" Ask what she needs to be successful.

This allows her to feel seen, heard and acknowledged and supported. The intention is that it will support her self-perception, perception of others and give her room to discover at her own pace what she needs when there are challenges. The idea is to lead the child to be the author of identifying their emotions, coming up with a solution to a perceived challenge and thinking about what she actually needs.

-- Shannon, May 28, 2012 09:14am

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