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Why Don’t Parents Understand their Children?

Image of a large family and children

 Parents are usually the worst judges of their children. This seems odd, so why don’t parents understand their children? Psychologists have identified that parents often have misconceptions about their children.

 If you talk to other parents at the school gate, you will hear how each child is unique (according to the parents).


 The parents have picked up on some traits possessed by the child and extrapolated a view of what their future should be. (Little Johnny is so active outside, he should be a football player).

 Parents are hard-wired to see their children as unique, to be blind to their failings, and to clutch at the slimmest evidence to confirm their views. They see “Little Johnny” as having such vast potential.

 Eventually, of course, the parent reaches the stage where they are forced to recognize that “Little Johnny” has flaws and does not meet their expectations. The reaction is to blame the child for not realizing this potential (that never actually existed outside the imagination of the parent).

 As we progress through the numerous stages of life, we all reflect on what we might have done differently. We look back at what we consider failures, and we imagine how different things might have been had we acted differently.

 At the same time, we look at the things that have gone right and analyze how we succeeded. The end result is we end up with a mental template that lays out what actions to take or avoid to enjoy success.

 Of course, this template only works if “success” means the same for everyone. The parent has constructed this template and compares the actions of the child to the model, and if the child deviates from the template, then they are seen to be making an error.


Image of many different with different characters

 If we think of this template as a road map that leads from city A to city B, We have given this map to the child because of our belief that they want to travel that route, we never asked, just assumed.

 The child, however, is starting from city D and wants to travel to city E. We watch the child turning left and right as they follow their own road map from D to E. We notice that they are taking all the wrong turns and continuously tell the child they are wrong and not following the route we gave them.

 The child smiles and carries on following their own course, knowing that they are on track.

   Analysis of the Above.

 We, as parents, have based our child’s map on false information. We forget that we are no longer back where we started. So we start our child’s map from the wrong starting point.


 We also assume that the child wants to go to the same destination as we did. In fact, they have a different goal in mind, so we have the wrong destination as well.

 Is it any wonder that we believe our child is making all the wrong turns? Just like we did in our childhood, or children are following their map.

     Generation Gap.

 The generation gap is a term we frequently hear. It is not something new. This gap existed between our parents and us, and between all the previous generations.

 The fact is that life moves on, and although we try not to get left behind, we usually do, to one extent or another.

The image of a perturbed child from misunderstanding of parents

 Because of the ever-increasing speed at which technology is changing our life, teenagers today face many more challenges than any previous generation did.

 There is immense pressure to succeed, the pressure to fit in, even defining gender. There are pressures today that our generation didn’t even think about.


 Society has also changed. When our generation was growing up, we expected to go to university, qualify, find work in that field and possibly stay with the same company for life, being promoted within the same discipline.

 Yes, we may change companies a couple of times, but we usually stayed in the same field.

 Now jobs are increasingly being made obsolete by fast-moving technology. It is thought that today the new generation may have to retrain several times during their life and work in different industries if indeed we work at all.

 This is the world that the new generation is growing up in. To try and guide our children based on our experiences is just no longer valid, and is often the cause of a great deal of conflict between the generations.

     Distance Between Generations.

 In today’s Internet-driven society, we have created a situation where we are rarely free from our work. Emails come in at all hours, and there is a growing expectation that they will be answered.

 Once upon a time, many mothers stayed home and did not work; these days, this is increasingly rare.

 There is just much more pressure on time for parents (or parent, since there are many more single-parent families). Family time is something of the past in many cases.

Married couple with three children

 We all tend to live in digital lives these days; we have friends and influences in our digital lives that never existed before. For many people or both generations, sharing things on the Internet is far more important than sharing with the family. We are growing more distant every year.

     Final Thoughts.

 With the increasing speed of change in society, the generation gap has become more extensive than ever.

 So many aspects of today’s life are being turned on their head. Having experienced life before the recent rapid technology-driven changes the older generation, much as they try to keep up, retain some conservative attitudes.

 The younger generation has grown up into this world, not knowing anything different, and their views and expectations reflect today’s society. Of course, they will have conflicting expectations to members of the older generation.

 A teenager today does not expect a job for life. No expectation that they will get married and have children. Understands that the jobs they are about to enter may not be around in 15 years.

 They consequently have different priorities and aspirations from the previous generation. How can the parents truly understand what is going through their children’s heads? In answer to the original question – Why don’t parents understand their children? It really is a matter of how can we expect them too?

   Read the article: Difficult Children: How to Cope with Constant Tantrums?

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