Reacting versus responding
Some thoughts from the front line….
As a Clinical Psychologist, sometimes I expect my parenting experiences to ‘roll’ in a certain way. How life has other plans! I just want to share with you how my afternoon unfolded recently. I share in the hope that this will be of comfort to any of the would-be super-mums out there struggling with their own expectations of themselves and their children:
3pm – pick the girls up from school with expectation of a good afternoon ahead.
3.10pm – questioning anticipation when youngest daughter announces “I’m not going to swimming, I’m too tired for swimming. I’m never swimming again!” This is followed by foot stamping, scowling and yelling.
3.15pm – afternoon continues in southward direction when oldest daughter mentions she’s “probably had the worst day at school. Ever.
3.20pm – I ask the girls to change into their swimmers for a class that starts in 10 minutes. After asking probably six times I can feel my anger starting to reach a slow boil. 3.25pm- two girls wrestling in the back of the car but not in swimmers and not even close to being so. My mood has escalated into the black zone and I can’t even imagine a time when I’ll smile or laugh again.
How does the story end? Well, we made it to swimming (just) but there was some collateral damage. This is not an uncommon scenario for many of us, and sometimes the most straightforward of days can seem like ten rounds in the boxing ring. Often in stressful situations I become immersed in thoughts like “Why is this happening to me?” or “I’m a bad parent” or “My children are the worst behaved children in Australia”. These types of thoughts often lead to feelings of anger and hopelessness, and then result in us reacting in situations rather than responding.
The difference between reacting versus responding is an important one for me. Reacting is off the cuff and unconsidered. Responding is thought through and measured. Some of the things I find help me respond rather than react are:
- Slow things down. When I can remember not to rush my kids or myself when things are becoming stressful it really helps.
- To do this I try to take 3-6 deep breaths. As hard as it can be walk away for a moment, I find that when I do this I have more time to become aware of my thoughts and feelings and to stay that little bit more flexible.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself we all struggle with parenting at times, it can be a really tough job.
For more information on parenting visit All About Parenting
Dr Mataji Kennedy is a Director at Select Counsellors for more information call 1300 123 680 or visit their website at www.selectcounsellors.com.