Respond, Don’t React
A shattered window.
Don’t react. Respond.
What’s the difference?
Reacting happens emotionally, without thought.
Reacting is often negative and potentially harmful.
Responding means pausing and using self-control to choose a positive action.
A child’s “disturbing” behavior is usually be purely innocent, such as when a toddler colors on a wall, not yet knowing that crayons are not to be used on walls. Or when a child stomps through mud, because it’s fun!
Responding with care, consciously, nurtures many gifts.
When a parent uses strength to respond rather than react, the child sees strength demonstrated and strength is nurtured in him. Even when a child does something for which “he should know better,” it is an opportunity to nurture love by disciplining with love. Responding rather than reacting to a child’s misguided actions shows reverence and nurtures reverence. While the child learns that his actions have consequences, he learns that he is valuable and worthy of respect, no matter what. When a parent responds with understanding, compassion is nurtured. When a parent consistently responds with care, the child learns to trust, which nurtures the gift of faith.
It is okay to feel anger. All emotions are okay.
It’s not okay to take anger out on a child.
It helps to be aware of anger. Notice where and how you are feeling anger in your body. Are you feeling it in your jaw, fists, or stomach? Anywhere else? Breathe in and out deeply and slowly at least three times. Imagine and feel oxygen going to those places and anger coming out.
It’s okay, and helpful, to say, “I’m feeling angry!” Take a parent’s time out. Let your child know what you are feeling and what you are doing.
There are many healthy ways to release anger and frustration. One is to go outdoors and blow bubbles for awhile. The deep breathing and being outdoors, along with seeing the bubbles float away, can help lift emotions.
It’s best to not touch your child while you are still feeling angry.
For more tips, do a web search for “Anger Management Tips for Parents.” You’ll find hundreds of thousands of websites offering information and ideas.
“When I was 6 years old I had been watching a dog cartoon with my brothers. In the cartoon the dog characters cut up curtains and made them into vertical strip people. Our babysitter was taking a nap and so we decided to cut my mom’s drapes up into strip people. When she came home, we were so excited to share with her what we had done! She walked in, stammered back for a second, and then looked at us and said, ‘Wow! How beautiful!’
We have never had drapes in our house since.
Years later I asked her why she didn’t yell at us and she said that it was clear to her that we did not do it out of maliciousness. We did it out of love and joy.”
– Jesse, San Diego, CA