"I was wrong but I have a reason... you were wrong because you're a bad person": 5 ways to help our child recognise fundamental attribution error

miss moody
miss moody

I recently read an article concerning a little thing called fundamental attribution error (FAE), a concept I had never heard of before.

Turns out, it is a social psychological term for when we assume that people’s negative actions are entirely a reflection of who they are, and we don't take into account any external factors that could’ve contributed towards the action. But if we were to do the same thing, we’d come up with a million reasons as to why it’s not our fault or why it's okay.

Also see: 7 reasons why the Serena incident is important for parents and their kids

FAE is the idea that we are quick to harshly judge others while giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt.

It is also this complex that human beings often have that only we are right for or more deserving of something than the next person. If we do well, it's because we are just that good. But if someone else do well, its because they were just lucky.

While this is pretty much hardwired into all of us, it is something we should all be more conscious of.

Here are some of the life lessons that are good to teach children: 

1. Don’t make assumptions

This one comes from a book I read not too long ago called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. It essentially means that you should never make assumptions about people, because you will never really know their full story. 

We make assumptions all the time. We assume that when people act a certain way it means they without a doubt ARE a certain way. We never stop to think that maybe someone is going through something or is having a really terrible day. Perhaps that girl at school experienced matters far beyond her control, and she didn't greet you not because she's nasty, but because her mind was elsewhere. Or she was "sad mad".

Bottom line is: never make assumptions.

2. Watch what you say

While they can be lovely little angels, children are known to be a little more judgmental because they take everything at face value and speak their mind. Little ones can be extremely candid and voice their thoughts without thinking. 

Words are extremely powerful, so it is important to always use uplifting words and reinforce the importance of it to your children so they'll be more conscious of what they say.

3. Celebrate the success of others

Another thing that FAE suggests is that we assume other people have it easy, have an unfair advantage, or get lucky when they achieved things, especially if it's something we want for ourselves. This is a bad attitude to have and may cause us feeling unnecessarily unsettled.

It may be good for our self-esteem to believe that others got something we didn’t because they are lucky, and in certain instances, this may be true but it is unhealthy to conclude that someone else is undeserving of something just because we think so.

We don’t always see what goes on behind the scenes and the hard work someone puts in to achieving something. Teach your children that their time will come to achieve things if they work hard enough and to never be bitter about the success of others..

4. Remain kind

It's easy to fight fire with fire and treat someone with the same contempt they treat you, but you know what's not easy? Being a fireman. A hypothetical one, of course. Putting out that fire. Point is, you should teach your child to remain kind regardless of another person's attitude. You never know when your kindness could change someone's entire day.

5. Be more empathetic

A good way to be less judgmental of others is to remain empathetic; put yourself in the next person’s shoes and see how you would feel. A little empathy goes a long way as you'll learn to understand others better instead of being quick to cut them off. We're all just human beings, and we all deserve the benefit of the doubt every now and then.

Are there any other life lessons you feel needs to be taught to combat Let us know by emailing us at chatback@Parent24.com and we could publish your comments. Do let us know if you'd like to remain anonymous. 

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