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Too Sensitive or Analytical: How We Make Decisions

3. Justly Apply Rules
Three children were playing at the Play-Doh table. I was a visitor and didn't know the rules. So when another child came to the table, I asked "Does anyone have extra Play-Doh so Alyssa can play, too?" Clair turned to me and matter-of-factly informed me, "The rule is only three children may be at the Play-Doh table at one time. Alyssa will have to wait."

Thinking kids value justice. They become alarmed if rules are changed or something seems unfair. The principle of fairness is very important. When playing a game, thinking kids will insist that everyone play by the rules even if that decision means that someone is out or unhappy. Statements like, "You don't like it when the rules are changed" can be very effective. If your child rejects your statements, try using questions like, "How did you see it?" or, "Are you trying to understand why the rule was changed?"

In school, it's essential that thinking kids know the criteria for evaluation and grades. They also need to know what the rules are and that they will be enforced for all kids.

It's the "gray" situations that can throw off the thinking kid. He likes to focus on the facts. Sometimes you have to teach him directly the importance of considering the feelings of others and adjusting those rules, when doing so would not hurt the good of the group.

Twelve-year-old Lindsey had been very focused on facts. "Feelings don't matter," she declared to her mother. "A rule is a rule. If you're out. You're out. That's it." Her mother realized there were times that adjusting for the feelings and needs of others was important, so she said to Lindsey, "I know you've moved your bedroom downstairs and have is all set up, but your brother's coming home from college and the fact is he's older than you and has lots of stuff. I think you should move back upstairs to the smaller room and he should have the larger room downstairs for the summer." "That's not fair!" Lindsey declared. "I worked hard setting that room up. It's mine."

"But the fact is he's older," her mother continued, "and he has more stuff."

"That's not fair!" Lindsey protested again.

"Oh, so you would like me to consider your feelings in making this decision?" her mother asked.

"Of course!" Lindsey declared.

"So feelings matter?" her mother asked.

Lindsey huffed and puffed, but ultimately realized from her mother's example that some rules are "gray" and that it really is important to consider the feelings of those involved and adjust them accordingly.

4. Explain Why
"Look at the big white snowman," Joe remarked to his six-year-old daughter as they drove by. "It's black," she retorted. Later he said, "It's time to go to bed." "But why do I have to go to bed?" she questioned. "Because we have to get up early for work and school," he replied. "But why do we have to go to school and work?" she asked.

It's the thinking kids who can often pull you into what feels like an intellectual trap. A good debate can be pure joy for thinking children. They may freely choose to take an opposing position simply to check it out. It's important to remember that when they are asking questions, they aren't just debating, they are trying to clarify the facts, analyze them, and understand why. They are offended if you respond to their "Why" by saying, "Because I said so." Firm-minded and unwilling to accept an answer until the facts prove it or until they fully understand an issue, it's often the thinking kids who get into trouble for questioning authority. That's what happened to Victoria.

She was six and in trouble when her mother called me. "It's the 'mouth,'" she said. This time the teacher had said, "Victoria, the order for your shorts came in, put them in your backpack." Victoria was a competent kid who prided herself in knowing what was going on in her life. Her mother had not told her to expect an order. She responded to her teacher by planting her feet, folding her arms, and stating firmly, "Those are not my shorts!"

Offended by her tone, the teacher replied, "Victoria, these are your shorts. Put them in your backpack now!"

Not easily swayed from her position, Victoria held her ground, repeating, "They're not mine!"

The teacher charged on, "Victoria, put the shorts in your backpack and sit down!"

At this point Victoria, knowing that physical might was not in her favor, complied, but the battle was not over. Walking to the cloakroom she mumbled, "Fine, but they're not mine!"

The teacher called her mother. Her mother called me. "Help," she declared. "How do I teach my daughter to back off?"

How different this scenario might have been if the teacher had recognized a thinking kid and had said something like, "Oh, you didn't expect this order. The shorts came on a back order. I was surprised, too. Would you like to check the address label? Or would you like to call your mother and check with her?" Later, when the intensity was down, the teacher could have talked to Victoria about the importance of a respectful tone and given her more suitable words to use that wouldn't "push buttons" for adults. How much better if Victoria had known to say, "I wasn't expecting an order; may I check with my mother?"

Understanding why is very important for the child using his thinking preference.

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From the book KIDS, PARENTS, AND POWER STRUGGLES: Winning for a Lifetime by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, published by HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Copyright 2000 by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. All rights reserved.

Buy the book at www.harpercollins.com.


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