The Skill of Perspective-Taking

It is important we, teachers and parents, help our children develop the essential life skill of perspective- taking. Each of us experiences the world around us in our own unique way.

We can all attend the same event (such as Magic Years’ Open House ), yet our perspectives on the experience will each be different from the other. Being able to see and understand someone else’s point of view becomes even more of a need when we realise that none of us is an island.

Learning cause-and-affect connection: how breaking someone else’s construction affects another.

Children in Creativity & Service have had many discussions on why it is important for everyone to do our part, no matter how small.

Everyone doing their part to clean up after Playground Time.

We are a community of learners. It is very important for us to be able to successfully engage in collaborative work with others.

Yet in order to do that, we need to hone our skills of perspective-taking and strive to understand how our peers are seeing their learning experiences; we need to communicate effectively with each other and show empathy.

Showing understanding and empathy – helping a friend who had to carry too many bags (after swimming) by offering to carry his backpack

This has been by far the most exciting and most challenging part of our inquiry. Listening to and respecting the opinions of others will also remain our goal for the rest of the year. It is a complex yet crucial skill needed for all our relationships and friendships.

Here is a photo gallery of some of our learning experiences:

Author Ellen Galinsky, in her book “Mind in the Making: The seven essential skills every child needs” points out that the skill of perspective-taking is a socio-emotional-intellectual skill that requires a lot of brain power. It can be divided into a few smaller steps:

  • Determining how someone else feels. We have to ignore our own feeling and use our understanding of someone else to try to guess what the other person is feeling.
  • Inhibitory control. We have to learn to put own own desires on hold if we want to really understand another perspective.
  • Cognitive flexibility. We need to learn to change our focus from ourselves onto someone else and think out of the box.

SUPPORTING THE DEVELOPMENT OF PERSPECTIVE-TAKING SKILLS AT HOME

Parents and teachers can help children practice their perspective-taking skills by:

Walking the walk. We need to practice ourselves what we want our children to learn. Young children learn best by observing someone else. So if we show them how valuable perspective-taking is, they will also strive towards the same.

Talking about feelings. All feelings are valid and children need to know that. Talk with your child about all feelings and let them know you are always available to listen and understand. Repeat the words they use to explain to you their feelings, describe what they are doing and ask more questions to clarify their point of view. All this will help your child understand own feelings and be able to understand others’ better.

Acknowledge and respect feelings. Let your children know that you notice how they feel, that it’s important to you to understand them and that you respect all their feelings and are always available to help.

Show them the other side. Talk to your child about the things you notice happening on the street, in a shop, anywhere you go. Explain the feelings or thoughts you notice others’ might have experienced when they did something, like helping a stranger. Children will start building connections between people’s actions and their thoughts, will will help them to understand how their own actions might affect others. If your child throws something at another person, help your child see that cause-and-affect connection between their actions and their impact on others.

Encourage community. Help your child not only engage with other children but also collaborate, solve their own problems and appreciate friendships. When they learn to respect their friends, they learn to take in their perspectives too.

Create a loving and warm environment. When children feel safe, respected and loved, they expand their own ability to show acceptance and respect of the opinions and feelings of others.

By helping our children learn perspective taking, we are giving them very important keys to happy healthy and effective friendships.

 

Reference List:

Galinsky, E. (2010). Mind in the Making: The seven essential life skills every child needs. Accessed on: Oct 16, 2016 at http://webpage.pace.edu/thinkfinity/book/mind%20in%20the%20making.pdf

Rymanowicz, K. (2016). The Importance of perspective taking for young children. Accessed on: Oct 16, 2016 at http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/the_importance_of_perspective_taking_for_young_children

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