Signs & Symptoms

Perspective Taking

Is your child unable to take another's perspective?

A parent may notice that her kind and friendly child has no idea how to react when another child is crying. Maybe your child ignores a crying peer. Perhaps he gets angry and bothered by the noise or he gets incredibly upset himself, having a huge overreaction to another child feeling upset.

Any of these responses reflect poor perspective taking. When a child does not understand the feelings and experience of another child he or she is likely to be puzzled and to react uncomfortably.

A small child with good perspective taking might put a hand on the child’s shoulder and say, “it’s okay.” Another child with good perspective taking might approach the teacher and say, “Steven is upset, he needs some help.”

These children understand Steven is sad and know what sad feels like. They wish to help. They do not ignore him, overreact or become annoyed.

Perspective taking allows a child to understand some of what another child is experiencing. Even very young children in preschool are capable of perspective taking. They see a peer or younger child upset and want to help.

Parents can see perspective taking skills or challenges at home too. In relation to parent child and sibling relationships,

Perspective taking allows a child to be patient with another person, to understand the other person’s experience, to know what the other person wants, and what might help get those needs met.

Sometimes parents will notice their child does not seem to understand the concept of doing something just to make someone happy. Children with poor perspective taking may believe it is unfair for a baby brother to not be required to sit through dinner or to eat all his vegetables.

Rule following: Some children follow rules simply because ‘you have to’ and so they may appear kind, even though their perspective taking skills are lacking. They may be sweet and gentle toward a sibling in order to earn a trip to the playground simply because gentle behavior is expected. These children might be very sweet, compliant and rule following even though they struggle to understand another person’s perspective.

Other children can be more behaviorally challenging. They may be more likely to hit or push a much younger sibling because they think a baby should be capable of following the same rules as a school-age child. Children who struggle with perspective taking tend to think that everyone shares their perspective.

What do challenges with Perspective Taking look like?

  • Unsure what to say to another child?
  • Hanging back in a social situation and appearing nervous or very quiet?
  • Seeming unusually self-centered or self-focused?
  • Having difficulty telling you his friend’s interests, thoughts or opinions?
  • Only talking with friends about videogames or Minecraft?
  • Not making close connections?
  • Unsure how to respond to another person in an emotional situation?
  • Friendly and kind but clueless when he hurts someone’s feelings?
  • Not seeming to understand anyone else’s experience and thinking others must view things the same way she does?
  • Seeming to have unreasonable expectations of younger siblings?

Why is Perspective Taking happening?

Perspective taking is the ability to understand the thoughts and experiences of another person. Perspective taking is understanding another person by taking their perspective. Close friends with good perspective taking can almost predict what the other person is going to say before they say it.Young children may not understand that another person’s knowledge and experience is different from their own. This skill requires a child to imagine what the other person is thinking about or intending. People with poor perspective taking can sometimes be considered gullible and can be vulnerable to being taken advantage of by others.  People with poor perspective taking might miss a social cue. They might not show concern when someone is hurt or upset, might forget to open the door for someone carrying a heavy load, or might not ask if someone is okay after a lost football game or failed job interview.

How can I manage Perspective Taking at home?

Teenagers: Gullible or Overperceiving the Negative

A teenager with poor perspective taking can run the risk of being vulnerable to the ill-intentions of others. In this case, the teenager needs to have savvy peers he or she can trust to check in with for confirmation.

A client of one author reported that he would ask a few trusted friends “Does Sarah like me, or is she making fun of me when she does that at lunch?” His parents really could not help in every situation, but his closest friends were helpful. The teenager was subject to being used or manipulated without this support.

As a freshman, he let the junior girls eat his fries and chips at every lunch. He loaned lunch money to those who asked and passed out chewing gum after school. He realized with the help of others, that most of the girls he was hanging out with were taking advantage of his kindness. When it came time for football games, dances and parties, they did not include him.

Another risk for teenagers with poor perspective taking is that they will think the worst of others and not see the peers who are kind, or who are trying to help.

As a parent if you can make sure your child has at least one or two genuine friends, you will find that he or she has more success. Kids do not have to be the most popular, but a couple close peers make a world of difference.

Children: Tend to be Concrete

For children, teach them what is common knowledge and what information they need to provide to others. Some of this information seems obvious to a parent, but your child with poor perspective taking needs this spelled out concretely.

Children with autism tend to be very concrete and respond best to facts and information. A child who develops these skills early will have fewer problems as a teenager.

Young Ones: Engage and Connect

For the young child who studies details and figures out how things work, a parent needs to try even harder to join with and engage this child. Take an interest in the same books, appliances and technology devices and explore them with your child. Model things and praise your child for asking for help. Point things out that are of interest, join with your child and share enjoyment with him or her whenever possible.

ABA Therapy, Social Groups and Psychotherapy:For young children, Applied Behavior Analytic (ABA) therapy can be invaluable. A child’s brain can change to be more aware of others. A child can learn to attend to and respond to others in the environment. As children get older, social skills groups and psychotherapy can also help extensively with perspective taking. It is an important skill to learn when we have social success in mind.

How can Clear Child Psychology help with Perspective Taking?

If your child is struggling with this symptom to the point that it is getting in the way of his or her learning, relationships, or happiness, it’s time to seek professional help.

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