According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were 3.5 million victims of family violence between 1998-2002. 48.9 percent was committed against a spouse, and 10.5 percent against a son or daughter and 40.6 percent was against other family members. Three fourths of all such crimes reported happened in or near the home.
Although, people can consider many solutions to what would decrease the amount of violence happening between family members, perhaps near the top would be seeing the other person's point of view. Ellen Galinsky, a family scientist, identified "perspective taking" as the second essential life skill for children to learn in her book, Mind in the Making. Without being able to see from another's perspective it becomes very difficult to form healthy social relationships. Seeing from someone else's perspective helps us avoid conflict and communicate without becoming defensive. Eventually, children become adults and they will need to see differences in people's thinking without becoming biased. "Perspective taking" allows adults and children, alike, to see multiple solutions to a problem. Galinsky explains that when children enter school "perspective taking" helps children to understand their teacher's demands. If children can see another's perspective they will communicate more effectively and, hopefully, will avoid arguments.
Although there are many suggestions, let's consider how we can help children to develop the ability to see other's point of view (perspective taking).
Help children feel understood
- in one study, Galinsky asked children what they would like to tell their working parents. Children responded that they want their parents to understand them. Learn and do the activities your child enjoys. Ask them questions about their day, friends, school, etc. When parents understand their children, it forms an emotional bond that helps children see their parent's point of view. Galinsky points out that with infants you can help them develop "perspective taking" by responding to their actions and needs. Imitate the behaviors they do, this is a form of empathy.
Talk about your feelings
- Consider for a moment, do you talk about your feelings with your children? Children may not be aware of your feelings or see your perspective if they do not hear from you about them. If you've had a bad day, this may be a great time to talk to your children about your feelings as long as your feelings don't lead to taking it out on the children. Children will better recognize how events impact their feelings and the feelings of others.
- Playing pretend with your children is, perhaps, the ultimate game for perspective taking. Children can imagine being a mother, father, or some other person. Children who pretend think about what the actions and duties of this person.
Teach Appraisal Skills -
Appraisal skills are skills that learn someone else's intent. When there is a fight about a toy between children it could be a good time to ask the offender or defendant why they think the other person did what they did. When watching a movie you could ask why the character was acting a certain way. This is a simple way to help children see the motives and intentions of people in their life.
Galinsky, E. (2010). Mind in the making. (1st ed., pp. 1-50). New York, NY: HarperCollins.