Summary: Being a parent can be overwhelming. There are so many things that require your attention. In the heat of the moment, do you find yourself REACTING (may a little louder than usual)? Or maybe you are snapping out biting words, you later regret.
Learn these THREE EASY STEPS to create peaceful communication in the midst of challenging situations.
3 things to do when you really just want to scream
Creating peaceful communication at home
Sound familiar . . .
Just as your daughter, a junior in high school, is walking through the door, you are checking her grades on the school portal. As you look at the grades, you become furious. She promised to buckle down this semester, but her grades are actually worse. And, on top of that, you notice she has missing assignments.
As she enters the room, you blow.
“That’s it. No more going out after school. You no longer have privileges to the car, and from now on, you need to show me your completed homework every evening before you go to bed. Things are changing around here, and I am in control. You are done. From now on, we are doing this my way because you can’t seem to figure it out on your own. These grades are unacceptable.”
She glares at you and storms out of the room into her bedroom.
You follow her to the stairway and point your finger at her back (she’s half way up the stairs) and say, “That’s right. Go to your room and while you are up there, crack open a book.” And then you hear the door slam.
What just happened?
Probably not your best interaction.
Totally went against your goal of peaceful communication.
Your amygdala was just hijacked! (more on that another time!)
THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU REACT IN THE HEAT OF THE MOMENT
In this particular scenario, several things went wrong.
You moved so quickly, you were not able to recognize the emotions and feelings that were bubbling up. Each of these feelings provides us with valuable information. (KNOW YOURSELF)
In the heat of the moment, you reacted on impulse. Your thoughts and feelings triggered your auto-pilot reaction to snap versus choosing an intentional thought our response. (CHOOSE YOURSELF)
Your speed of reaction also eliminated all possibilities to use empathy with your daughter and seek to understand what is behind the grades. The grades are like the tip of the iceberg. They are visible. Often it’s what is beneath the surface that gives us more information. (GIVE YOURSELF)
What’s A Parent To Do
The next time you catch yourself wanting to snap, try these three simple steps.
1. Pay attention to what you are feeling in the moment, and hold back from reacting on auto-pilot. Our feelings provide us with information. In the scenario above, our mom admitted she was angry. But when she talked about the situation further, she was able to identify several feelings that were all crashing together. She was scared and worried that this was the beginning of a pattern that was going to mark her daughter’s life. She pictured her daughter not getting into college and struggling working a minimum wage job. She felt disrespected, knowing her daughter didn’t follow through on her promise. She felt helpless thinking that there was nothing she could do to actually make things better. And she felt physically exhausted, tired from feeling the need to watch over her daughter.
In the heat of the moment, hold back from reacting. Instead, take time to name your feelings to yourself. Consider what messages might be behind the feelings. If you are feeling angry, take some time to understand what’s behind that emotion. What’s driving the anger? What else is contributing to the situation? What’s beneath the surface…meaning, what’s really upsetting you? Identifying and understanding all the emotions you are experiencing at once may actually result in a completely different conversation.
2. Commit to choosing how you want to respond rather than letting your auto-pilot reaction take over. Your brain is wired to be efficient, and when something happens that appears to be a threat, you will have a FIGHT, FLIGHT, or FREEZE reaction. In that moment, take a 6-second pause and engage the thinking part of your brain. Think through the consequences. If you respond with A, Y will happen. If you respond with B, Z will happen. Don’t assume the worst. Learn to use your emotions as a way to navigate your thoughts and actions. And finally, remember, no matter how you respond, you are teaching your kids how to deal with challenges. As you react or learn to choose to respond, your children are learning how to deal with challenges.
3. Be purposeful with your response and seek to understand. As you are learning to identify and understand your own feelings and emotions, seek to understand the feelings and emotions of your kids. Engage in a meaningful conversation. What is going on? How are they feeling about the situation? What are their goals and dreams? What do they worry about? As a parent, we want the best for our kids. We want them to grow up to be confident, resilient, kind, and compassionate. What we do today, and how we respond in the moment, can greatly influence how they move forward in life.
The best part about learning how to RESPOND in the moment rather than REACT is that you will find that it will impact so many areas of your life, including your overall effectiveness, relationships, your feeling of balance and well-being. Give it a try! You won't learn it overnight. Give yourself permission to practice, to make mistakes, and to keep on trying!