Is your child a mismatcher?
Parents, does your child love to disagree with just about anything you say? If you say it's black, does he say, "White"? If you say, "Day", does he say, "Night"? It could be your child is a mis-matcher.
As a group, mis-matchers may be the most misunderstood children. Even in their own family, they may be branded as defiant, rebellious or insolent. One mom brought her child to me and introduced him to me as, "My little monster." Their propensity for disagreement can stretch the patience of any same parent. In short, parenting a mis-matcher can be frustrating and challenging.
If you think your child may be a mis-matcher, try giving this simple test to your child.
Take three quarters and arranged them on a table to form a small triangle (about 3" high") with two of the quarters showing the 'heads' side up and one of the quarters showing the 'tails' side up.
Ask your child this question: "Look at the three quarters and tell me what you notice about the relationship between these quarters?" Listen carefully to his initial response. His initial response will likely take one of two forms.
Response #1: He will first notice a Similarity between the quarters, i.e., ALL the quarters from a triangle, or they are ALL quarters. Or
Response #2: He will first notice a DIFFERENCE between the quarters, i.e., ONE quarter is tails and TWO are heads, or two quarters are in a line and the other is not.
If your child gives response #2, he may be a mis-matcher.
You can repeat this test by drawing three similar rectangles, in the configuration below.
Again, ask your child this question: "Look at the drawing and tell me what you notice about the relationship between the rectangles?" Listen carefully to his initial response and pay particular attention to the first and second answers.
Again, if your child first notices how the rectangles are different, i.e., one is vertical and two are horizontal, he may be a mis-matcher.
The first thing to remember is that your child's mis-matching IS NOT ABOUT YOU. Mis-matching is simply a mental program, a strategy, a way of dealing with or processing information. It's not personal.
While it is important not to reward the mismatching strategy, it is also important not to punish the child for a very natural thought process that is beyond his understanding and control.
Something I find helpful in facilitating communication with a mis-matcher is to ask him for HIS ideas on a given subject. When done correctly, the subject, i.e., going to the grocery store, becomes a presupposition to the conversation and the focus is not whether or not we're going to the store. Going to the grocery store is like a fact--it's a given.
The conversation becomes about HOW we're going to the grocery store? What are the possibilities for going to the grocery store? Or what might we do AFTER we go to the grocery store?
It is almost never a good idea to argue with the mis-matcher. The argument will almost always be about the "how", "what", or "when" to do something. If you can, instead, convey the intention or need behind the how/what/when, you can offer the mis-matcher the chance to participate in the conversation by offering his own possibilities (positive contribution) as opposed to negating whatever you say.
Again, the most important thing to remember is that the mis-matching strategy is not personal. It's not defiance. It's not an attempt to undermine your parenting authority. It is simply a way of processing information. Remember: "Driving every behavior is a positive intention."