I am a professional assumer. I’ve been at it so long and I’m so good at it, that most of the time I don’t even realize that I’m doing it.
I assess people and situations. Before I ask questions, seek clarity or perspective, I decide what is true.
For example, let’s say Bryan walks in the door 20 minutes later then when he said he was going to be home. When our kids were very little, this was the worst offense. Earlier that afternoon, I promised myself that if he was late, I wouldn’t explode. But when I saw him, my heart began to pound, my voice would get loud and before he could say a word I would yell “Where were you? You said you would be home 20 minutes ago. Do you know how long 20 minutes feels when you are home all day with YOUR children?” I would continue on. Finally when I came up to take a breath, he would have a moment to explain. He would proceed to tell me that he was in an accident and when he was about to call me, the person that hit his car walked up to the drivers seat window, took Bryan’s phone and drove away.
Okay, that never really happened. But I think the example drives my point home.
Without asking questions, seeking perspective and clarity, I decided what was true. Because I was tired and frustrated, I assumed that Bryan stayed at work late on purpose. I assumed that he came home late because he would rather be at work than at home with me and the kids. There is no truth in that assumption. Bryan would rather be at home with us and often times leaves before others. But when I allow my emotions to be my filter, truth gets muddy and I start making assumptions. I then allow my assumptions to drive my reactions.
I do the same thing with Piper.
I assume and react.
She doesn’t even have to say anything. She walks in the door and looks at me a certain way. I assume that she is going to be disrespectful. I assume she is about to make my day a challenge. I react immediately. My heart begins to pound. I start getting hot and without notice, I am angry. I don’t pause. I don’t ask questions. I don’t seek perspective or clarity, I allow my assumptions to drive my reaction. And again, all of this happens before Piper even has a chance to open her mouth.
That is not fair to her. And it certainly doesn’t line up with my belief that we can change, that we can be better than we were yesterday. And honestly, I hope no one allows their assumptions about me to guide their reactions.
I asked someone years ago what the best advice they had ever received. Their answer was simple, yet so profound.
Assume the best in people.
This advice has stuck with me.
Because it’s really hard.
It’s amazing to me how good I am at assuming the worst in people, yet it is so unnatural for me to assume the best. But it matters where our assumptions are coming from because it helps frame the situation in a different light. I read something last year that drives this point even closer to home.
In Harvey and Penzo’s book “Parenting a Child Who Has Intense Emotions.” they talk about important assumptions you should parent from as you parent your intense child.
1. Your child is doing the best they can.
2. Your child needs to do better, try harder, and be more motivated to change.
3. Your child wants to do things differently and make things better.
4. Your child must learn new behaviors in all important situations in his life.
5. Family members should take things in a well-meaning way and not assume the worst.
6. There is no absolute truth.
When I first read this, I was angry. I was sure of two things 1.They had never met my child. 2. They probably had never had an intense child, if they did-they would have not included number one (or number three for that matter).
But those assumptions stuck with me. As I continued to wrestle with number one especially, I was brought back to the advice given to me years ago-assume the best in people. What if I tried to assume the best of Piper? How would it change my approach if I assumed that Piper was truly doing the best she could?
What if instead of assuming the worst of Piper, I paused and waited for her to open her mouth before I reacted? What if I actually assumed the best from her, that she was doing the best she could? What if instead of assuming the worst and getting angry at Bryan, I actually asked questions?
In the rare occasion I have done that, I’ve been surprised. When I seek the facts and react out of compassion, I can more quickly get to the source of her angst. It usually involves math or a friendship issue. The sooner we get to the root, the sooner we get out of the funk. The same happens with Bryan. When I pause and ask questions, instead of getting angry-I am able to react out of compassion or understanding. When I do that, it changes the dynamic of our relationship and therefore the atmosphere of our home.
So I’m giving it a try. I am trying my best to pause, clear my mind and assume the best. Instead of allowing past reactions and negative assumptions to drive my reactions, I am working on asking questions. I am trying to seek perspective and clarity. And like I mentioned, when I do that, the storm passes much more quickly.
As I continue to learn how to parent my intense child, I am learning so much about relationships in general. I have to manage my expectations, regardless of the relationship. To get the most out of my relationships, I need to be present. I need to clear my side of the street and evaluate why I am reacting the way I am. Then I need to pause, seek the truth and assume the best. I believe if we work on those things, not only will it benefit our relationship with our intense child, it will surely benefit all of our relationships.
This is my last post about raising an intense kid. I hope you feel encouraged that you are not alone. I hope that you have picked up one or two new ideas that may help you along the way as you raise your intense child. I am confident that everyone that is reading this wants to parent well. Some of us may have to work a little harder. Like me, it may not feel natural to you. It may not be what you bargained for or what you envisioned parenting to be. I’m there, I’m with you. I wish that my struggle to raise Piper was not part of my story, but it is. And the more I walk with Jesus, I have more questions than answers. But I know two things for sure. God makes beauty out of ashes. He never promised that this life would be easy, but he did promise to make good out of bad. And he is not done with us yet. He is not done with me and He is not done with Piper. And my hope and prayer is that when Piper is grown, we can look back at our journey with compassion and grace, grateful that we pressed into the struggle and came out better on the other side.