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Teaching Your Kids: Assume There's a Good Reason and Find It

Admit it. For most of us, every time we see someone say or do something that doesn't make any sense at all, we assume it's because they're stupid. And you know that because you know how often most of you think to yourself, "Wow, that's really stupid!" Right? Well, here's a news flash. There's usually a really good reason for it; you just don't know what it is. Unfortunately, the odds of you finding out what that reason in are close to zero if you assume that it doesn't exist. Changing your attitude to assume there is a good reason for things you don't understand is the first step in figuring out what it is.

Here's an example that actually happened to me. A few years ago, I was at my son Matthew's junior high wrestling meet. Now, if you're not familiar with wrestling, each match takes place on a mat with a circle twenty-eight feet in diameter as the wrestling area. And the coaches are allowed to sit in chairs just outside the circle. But they're not allowed to get out of their chairs or go inside the circle.

Well, at one critical point, Matthew's opponent had him on his back, close to being pinned. So, Matthew's coach slid out of his chair and onto his knees to shout instructions and encouragement to help him break out of the hold. And even though the coach was still outside the circle and only a few inches from his chair, the referee waved him back. The rules are, after all, the rules.

Well, after the match was over, I had about an hour until Matthew wrestled again. So, I watched some of the other matches. During one match, she noticed the coach of one of the other teams running all the way around the circle to coach her wrestler, madly waving her arms around. I knew what was supposed to come next, so I looked at the referee.

But he didn't say anything. And then, a minute later, she ran around to the other side to get closer to her wrestler, and this time she even stepped inside the circle waving more signals. And I thought, "How on Earth could he miss that? What an idiot!" In fact, I started getting mad at the ref. I mean, he was so strict with the rules when it involved my son, but didn't seem to care when it was someone else's kid out there.

Then I thought about Jim Bangel and wondered if maybe I was "in the wrong bathroom," so to speak. Maybe there was a good reason for all this. And then I asked myself, "Let's assume there is a legitimate explanation for this. What could it be?" And Nothing came to mind, so I kept watching, looking for a clue. Importantly, I was looking for—and honestly hoping to find—a good reason this obvious infraction was being overlooked.

And that's when I saw it. The woman running around the ring wasn't the boy's coach. She was his sign language interpreter. The boy was deaf. His coach was sitting in his chair outside the ring, exactly where he was supposed to be. This clearly justifiable exception to the rule was made to level the playing field. All of a sudden, my son and his coach didn't seem unfairly judged. In fact, I gained a whole new level of respect for that official and the organizers of the meet for making these arrangements.

The lesson is, when we start with the open-minded assumption that the rest of the world isn't full of idiots, it's amazing what good sense we'll find in other people's decisions. And to help your child see that, share this story with them, and then have a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started.

  1. What might have happened if I had reacted to what I first thought was unfair treatment by the referee?

  2. Have you ever heard someone say something like, "The world is full of idiots," or "most people can think their way out of a cardboard box"? Do you think that's true?

  3. Describe a situation in which you were the one that was thought silly because someone didn't understand the truth of the situation.

  4. Most of the time, we're too quick to judge situations like this. But what are situations where it's important to make very quick judgments and decisions?

Okay, in the final lesson, we'll talk about trying to see things from a different angle.

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Written by

Paul Andrew Smith