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Clarifying: The Cure for Misunderstandings between Parents and Children by Gregory Bland

Aug 5th, 2010 | By | Category: Parenting

“Dad, if I like the color of the dachshund, and the parents are ‘good natured,’ I am going to hold the puppy.”
“O.K., but can I ask a question?”
“When we visit the family who has the puppy, are you intending on holding it or making the decision about it first, then holding it?”
“Definitely make the decision first.”
“Well, I’m not sure I understand, I would have thought holding it would help you make the decision.”
“Yes it would.  But, that’s not what I mean Dad.”
“Ok then, help me understand what you mean?”
With strong emphasis now she responds.  “If I like the color and the parents seem to have a good nature, I am going to HOLD it so I can pick it up when it is ready to leave its mommy!  Do you understand what I mean now?”
Laughing now as the lights go on.  “Do you mean you’re going to put a deposit on it, so they will ‘hold’ it for you?”
“Yeah, that’s what I mean!”
Laughing, “Ok, now I understand.  I thought it was a bit strange that you wouldn’t even hold onto the puppy when you went to see it.”

This story is a perfect illustration of how misunderstandings can easily take place.  Hannah knew exactly what she meant by ‘hold’, and of course I interpreted ‘hold’ in an entirely different manner.

Most of us could share humorous and/or embarrassing stories about making an assumption and jumping into conversation only to discover we were totally off base.  These moments serve as powerful reminders that we do not always know what a person is thinking or truly understand their hearts.  Of greater importance, for us as parents, is the realization that far too often within families, misunderstandings are the fuel for relational conflict.   How many times have you come to the realization that an argument or disagreement originated because of misunderstanding, jumping to conclusions or making rash judgments?  What was the effect upon your relationship?

Clarifying is the linchpin of understanding. It brings the issue or topic of conversation into sharp focus ensuring that our interpretation of what our child says is indeed what they intend.   By clarifying we give our children the freedom and permission they need to correct our understanding when necessary.  It is a ‘check point’ used frequently within our conversations to ensure that we truly understand what is being communicated to us.

True understanding can only be attained when both us and our child step away from a conversation knowing, without a doubt, that we are in agreement as to what the other intended.

The next time you are in conversation with your child and something makes you curious, a word, statement, or even their body language; stop and resist making a judgment or jumping to conclusions, instead use a statement or ask a question that will offer you more information so you may truly understand what is upon their heart.

For example, you could say . . .

‘You said . . . . , tell me more about . . .’
‘I think I understand, but could you tell me more about . . .  just to make sure I do?’
‘You left the room abruptly, and from where I stand it ‘seems’ as though something is bothering you, can you help me understand what you’re thinking/feeling right now?’
‘If I understand you correctly, you mean . . .  is that right?’
‘So, what you’re saying is . . . is that what you mean?’

Clarifying is a simple yet powerful method to ensure we truly understand what our children intend, and understanding goes a long way in building a solid relationship with them.

Until next time, seek to understand your child and see what impact this has upon your relationship.

Your friend and pro-active parent coach.

*Gregory and Lynn Bland currently reside in Nova Scotia, Canada and are actively coaching, writing a parenting book and developing a course to train parents in Pro-ActiveParentCoaching.  Additionally they are providing interim pastoring for the Maritime District of the PAOC.  For more information check out Pro-ActiveParentCoaching or write to

Copyright 2010 Gregory Bland | Pro-ActiveParentCoaching | Nova Scotia | Canada |

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