One thing you get good at as a parent is seeing past the behavior. You realize your kid is not a mean person, they’re just really tired. Strangely, you can even tell that sometimes when they’re running around like a crazy person that they’re actually not hyped up—they’re just really really tired. You know that they’re having a tantrum because they’re hungry. You sense that the rude tone in their voice is because something happened at school. You get that they love you, that their family does matter to them but they don’t want to show it—because they’re getting older and it’s a little embarrassing.
You see past all this partly because you live with them, but mostly because you are giving them the benefit of the doubt. You’re not jumping to the worst conclusion, you’re not attributing from some single event some permanent character defect. Basically, you are not giving your kids the treatment you unfairly give to pretty much everyone else you meet in life.
And that’s the message of today’s email: What if, today, when your co-worker is snippy, you stop for a second and think about their sleep or their stomach and whether that might have contributed to it? What if, today, when you get cut off in traffic or deal with a particularly frustrating customer service representative you gave that person the benefit of the doubt? What if you assumed the best instead of the worst? What if you tried to help instead of punishing them, or responding right back in kind?
You know what would happen. You’d feel better. They’d feel better. Your kids would see a better example. And the world would be better.