Assumptions and Parenting: Are your assumptions making you a bad parent?

Assumptions

When I first learned what it meant to assume, my teacher taught me that doing so makes an A** of “u” and “me”. It was a silly, borderline inappropriate, ditty to help kids remember what it means to assume, and to this day, I haven’t forgotten that little lesson. Assumptions, while often justified, do not necessarily lead to the correct outcome. Let’s look at assumptions and how they relate to parenting.

The first thing I want to look at is how assumptions are often formulated by our biases. My husband and I recently attended a class where we talked about “culture” and what contributes to the “culture” in our home. Food, sports, holidays, routines, traditions, etc. are all part of  culture, it is not just race or ethnicity.

The culture we grow up in colors our thoughts, actions, and of course our parenting. This leads to certain ways of doing things. For example, I grew up in a food-centric home, and when someone made a tasty dish, you let them know how much you enjoyed it. Lots of praise required. In my husband’s home, food was not the center of relationships, and effusive praise for meals was rare. Let’s just say it made for a rocky first few months of marriage. I would cook. He would eat. I would cry. Can you see how our different cultures created some misunderstanding in our relationship?

Let’s look at another example. Is it okay to call people names? No. In general, that is not okay. But, I affectionately call my kids “little stinkers” all of the time, and they know it as a term of endearment. In our family culture, this particular label is okay. But, what happens when they call a friend at school a little stinker?

Can you see how our perspectives are skewed by the biases we have, and that those are often influenced by our family cultures? It is by this same token that we make assumptions. Often believing those assumptions are correct, but we may be mistaken. These assumptions can lead to parenting mistakes, mistakes that are easily avoided by taking a wider perspective.

In the same class we did an exercise. It was comic, and eye opening, so I am going to share it. I was given a photo-copied version, so I am going to cite the source the best I can. It comes from a Strengthening The Partnership Workbook, from the Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group.

Go grab a pen or pencil, and a sheet of paper. Trust me, you will want to…

Are you back? Okay, now read the following story:

The Story
A businessman had just turned off the light in the store when a man appeared and demanded money. The owner opened a cash register. The contents of the cash register were scooped up, and the man sped away. A member of the police force was notified promptly.

Okay, now get your pencil ready. The story is simple enough, right? You can refer back to it when answering the questions if you want to. Okay, now answer the following questions with: true, false, or I don’t know. Just number your paper 1-15, and write the “T”, “F”, or “?” next to the number.

The Questions:

  1. A man appeared after the owner had turned off his store lights. T F ?
  2. The robber was a man. T F ?
  3. The man who appeared did not demand money. T F ?
  4. The man who opened the cash register was the owner. T F ?
  5. The owner scooped up the contents of the cash register and ran away. T F ?
  6. Someone opened a cash register. T F ?
  7. After the man who demanded the money scooped up the contents of the cash register, he ran away. T F ?
  8. While the cash register contained money, the story does not state how much. T F ?
  9. The robber demanded money of the owner. T F ?
  10. A businessman had just turned off the lights when a man appeared in the store. T F ?
  11. It was broad daylight when the man appeared. T F ?
  12. The man who appeared opened the cash register. T F ?
  13. No one demanded money. T F ?
  14. The story concerns a series of events in which only three persons are referred to: The owner of the store, a man who demands money, and a member of the police force. T F ?
  15. The following events occurred: Someone demanded money; a cash register was opened; its contents were scooped up; and a man dashed out of the store. T F ?

In the class, we were asked to answer on our own, then compare with a partner, until we agreed on the answers. Then we were asked to group up with another set of partners and compare until we all agreed on the same answers. Then we got with an even bigger group, until eventually the whole class had to get together and determine what the right answers were. My paper was full of scribbles by the end.

If there is someone else around, have them take the quiz too. Don’t look at each other’s answers. Now compare. If not, well, it will be harder to see how interesting this quiz is, but let’s go through it together. I am going to give you the RIGHT answers.

1. A man appeared after the owner had turned off his store lights. T F ?
The answer: ?, we do not know if the businessman who turned off the lights was also the owner.
2. The robber was a man. T F ?
The answer: ?, we do not know if there was even a robber, just that someone scooped up the contents of the cash register, and that someone sped away (not even sure if it was the same person).
3. The man who appeared did not demand money. T F ?
The answer: F
4. The man who opened the cash register was the owner. T F ?
The answer: ?, we do not know if the owner was a man.
5. The owner scooped up the contents of the cash register and ran away. T F ?
The answer: ?, we do not know who scooped up the contents, and we don’t know if they ran, it says “sped”.
6. Someone opened a cash register. T F ?
The answer: T
7. After the man who demanded the money scooped up the contents of the cash register, he ran away. T F ?
The answer: ?, we do not know who scooped up the contents, and whether or not they ran.
8. While the cash register contained money, the story does not state how much. T F ?
The answer: ?, we do not know what the “contents” were.
9. The robber demanded money of the owner. T F ?
The answer: ?, we do not know if there was a robber, just that man demanded money, and we don’t know if it was of the business man or the owner, or if they are one in the same.
10. A businessman had just turned off the lights when a man appeared in the store. T F ?
The answer: ?, we do not know if the man appeared in the store, or outside of it, or where he was.
11. It was broad daylight when the man appeared. T F ?
The answer: ?, we do not know, it does not specify.
12. The man who appeared opened the cash register. T F ?
The answer: ?, we do not know if the man who appeared was the store owner. It could have been.
13. No one demanded money. T F ?
The answer: F
14. The story concerns a series of events in which only three persons are referred to: The owner of the store, a man who demands money, and a member of the police force. T F ?
The answer: ?, we do not know if the businessman is the owner, they could be separate people.
15. The following events occurred: Someone demanded money; a cash register was opened; its contents were scooped up; and a man dashed out of the store. T F ?
The answer: ?, we do not know if it was a man or woman who left the store, and all we know is that they sped away, whether that means they dashed or not is unclear.

Did you have all of the answers correct? I sure didn’t. We often make assumptions, and think that we have the evidence to support those assumptions, but they may not be true. What happens when you do this in your parenting?

Do you assume your children know you love them because you make them food, keep your home nice, and care for them? Do you assume your child’s needs are being met because they are not complaining or asking for anything? Do you assume that other parents are doing a better job than you because their kids behave better in public?

We all make assumptions. But they may not be right. I have found that by remembering that maybe I don’t actually have all the facts, motivating factors, or information, I can take a step back, take a deep breath, and be a better parent.

Signature-Rachael

About Rachael

I am Rachael, I have a passion for all things travel. I have an incurable wanderlust, and a need to see and do. I have four littles that call me "mom" and I am currently wading through the ever changing tides of parenting. I am figuring out what works, and what doesn't. And, I have a passion for food. In fact, I have an entire website dedicated to food www.eazypeazymealz.com. I love to eat, cook, and try new things.

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