What do you think of when you hear the word “table?” In your mind, do you see the large rectangular piece of furniture in your kitchen? Your fourth-grader might picture a multiplication chart, and your sixth-grader a list of contents at the beginning of a book.
Each person’s frame of reference develops from a perception of things based on the information we know and the things familiar to us. In a typical family, it’s not unusual to find one person’s frame of reference totally opposite from another’s, which often leads to the familiar, “I don’t understand where you’re coming from!”
Here is a fun word game to help the whole family appreciate differences in perception.
Give each family member a piece of paper and a pencil, and five minutes to write down all of the pictures that pop in his or her mind when a particular word is heard. Then compare lists. For example, try the word “copy” and see what comes up. Did you write that it means to duplicate on a machine? Maybe Grandmother wrote copy means to draw, trace or write the same thing over. If Dad is a newspaper writer, copy is the words or manuscript he writes. If Mom is a police officer, to copy means to understand.
Or, think of the various meanings of the word “key.” One person might be dreaming of the warm weather in the Florida Keys this time of year, while another who plays an instrument thinks of the musical key of a favorite song. A key to a road map helps understand its symbols, and a car key gets you on the road.
Discuss factors that may have made your definitions different, such as the person’s age, work or school environment. Continue with other words. As you become more aware, encourage your children to explore the difference in cultures of people in the community, whether they embrace a religion different from yours, speak a language other than English or come from another country.