As a parent, you may have found yourself feeling frustrated and angry about something you thought your child did only to find out later that it wasn’t his or her doing. A significant other may have been the person who tracked mud across the freshly cleaned kitchen floor or carpet, for example. Parents can also feel frustration and anger when they see a child doing something he or she isn’t “supposed to be” doing before they have learned the reason why—a reason, it turns out, that made good sense. Perhaps the child interrupted a chore to help an elderly neighbor carry in a heavy shopping bag.

Your relationship with your child will benefit if you can resist evaluating a situation or interaction before you know the specifics. Not only can you escape the embarrassment of being mistaken by acting before knowing but you will strengthen your relationship with your child. Children can rightfully feel that parents make negative assumptions about their behaviors when parents make no effort to understand the behaviors.

Making sense of a given situation or behavior is easiest when you keep an open, curious perspective. Stop long enough to wonder “What’s going on here?” rather than quickly reacting. Don’t let anger preempt your trying to get a full understanding of the scenario because a deeper understanding will allow you to make good sense of your child’s behaviors.

After you have a clear understanding of what is going on, then you can decide what you want to do next. Even if a consequence for unacceptable behavior is in order, your having made sense of the behavior is important for tying the consequence to the behavior.

Take time to understand and make sense of your child’s behaviors. Everyone will benefit.