“So do whatever you can do to avoid building mountains out of molehills. Address the misbehavior and remove your child from the situation if you need to, then give yourself time to calm down before saying much, so you can be calm and thoughtful when you respond. Then you can keep the focus on your child’s actions rather than your own.”
-Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, No Drama Discipline
I have made the mistake of reacting too intensely many times and learned the hard way that it is unproductive. My children always tell me that I am being mean to them whenever I make this mistake. And that’s all they focus on from that point onwards. Whatever it is that I am trying to teach them gets lost in my own emotional drama. I have learned that the key here is to be mindful of the situation at hand and to control my own reaction to my children’s mistakes, no matter how intolerable they are to me. I get the best response from my kids when I am able to calmly state how their actions have impacted me and then engage them in a dialogue starting with asking them how they would feel if I or someone else were to do the same to them. Sometimes, it is hard to even do this because they are too riled up. Then it is best to figure out how to help them calm themselves down and then teach what needs to be taught.
That said, I have also learned that kids will make mistakes no matter what and this fact applies to all of us, adults included. There will be moments when they will forget everything that I taught them and let their reptilian brains rule them. I see adults doing this all the time and they are just kids. I admit that it upsets me when this happens but I have also learned to accept this as part of parenting. It takes several years, may be even a life time of repeating the same messages, more so via actions (leading by example) than via words, finding the patience and the compassion to forgive when mistakes are made, always owning up to my own mistakes and making necessary amends, looking at the setbacks and mistakes as teaching moments not as a reflection of my parenting skills, focusing less on getting my children to correct their behaviors immediately and more on the end goal of raising my kids into empathic and emotionally well rounded adults in the long run.
On that note, this morning I was asking one of my boys to stop running around and sit down at the table to finish his breakfast. I asked him 2-3 times and when he paid no attention to me I started screaming my orders. He stopped running and said this to me: “Mommy, stop screaming. How would you feel if I screamed at you and said (here he paused a few mins trying to think) ‘Mommy, sit down and finish your coffee, right now!'” Whoa! This is so incredible in so many ways! It is a validation to me as a parent that my kids are receiving my messages, even when they act like they don’t care. It is also a wake up call for me to have my own act together because yes, they will question my behavior too because I give them the space and the freedom to do so. I walked over to him, bent down to his level, hugged and told him that I was sorry, I shouldn’t have screamed orders at him. I explained to him that I get frustrated sometimes when I feel like he is not listening to me. We agreed that next time I will walk over to him, put a hand on his shoulder and repeat my message to him softly and kindly as soon as I have his attention.