Have you ever found yourself over reacting to a situation with your children? One where you absolutely know you’ve over reacted, you wish you hadn’t, but you just couldn’t help yourself?
If you’re anything like me and the parents I’ve worked with at Good Parents…Getting Better, you’ll probably then berate yourself for the way you handled the situation.
I recently found myself in an interesting situation. I was in Starbucks with my two eldest boys. We were on our way somewhere and had stopped at a chemist to get something my eldest son Phil needed to take with him…which was going to make us even later! As we came out of the chemist I decided to grab a coffee. As we stood waiting, the boys were laughing and joking with their friend and I became really irritated. I was thinking things to myself like, ‘Listen to them, they’ve got no idea of the time pressure we’re under, just because they weren’t organised and ready on time. Don’t they realise they’ve wasted most of my day waiting around for them? etc
I turned to my middle son Jack and asked him to wait for my coffee, while I went outside to help Phil. Jack raised his eyebrows, as if to say “Do I have to?” Before I knew it I’d let out a whole barrage of verbal abuse, something along the lines of ”You know what Jack, I just wanted a little bit of help, but as ever it’s obviously too much to ask, so you know what, just forget it. I just wanted a little bit of help, that was all, but you know what… just don’t bother!’ But, my crowning glory was the childish way I’d taken hold of Jack’s forearm and squeezed my nails into it out of complete frustration. Yes really! As Jack reacted with ‘Okay Mum, there’s no need to pinch me’ I took my coffee from the poor girl looking on and made a quick exit, full of remorse for the way I’d over reacted.
After I dropped them off (having apologised to Jack for pinching him) I sat quietly and asked myself ‘What on earth was all that about? What had made me react in such a way? With all my knowledge and so called parenting skills it seemed unforgivable to find myself reacting in such a childish way. BUT, that’s the point I’d like to share with you. When we’re pushed up against an emotional wall, which we all are at times, there are several default settings we instinctively default to. As I sat and pondered mine, around my children, I realised one of my default ‘reactions’ is to become frustrated when things aren’t going according to plan. As I thought about the situation with Jack and enquired internally, I realised my frustration is often closely linked to feelings of being unappreciated by my children and then I react…badly!
Looking back, I can see that the tension had begun building in me the day before, as I’d tried to make sure the boys had everything ready for their trip. As they’d told me to ‘chill’ and ‘not worry’ the feelings of frustration had started to grow. I now understand that when this starts to happen I need to share the frustration and between us we can resolve the situation. It may not always turn out, or get resolved in the exact way I’d like it to, but as I looked back over the years, I had to admit to myself that my boys did deliver on their promises….most of the time.
My frustration is born out of wanting them to do things within ‘my’ time frame and often by ‘my’ rules. Ha, it seems funny now to realise the amount of internal stress and tension this has caused me, especially as the boys have grown older and found their voices.
You too might find it useful to consider what your own emotional triggers are, especially the ones that cause you to over react? When you find them simply explore and find what the initial trigger was and then ask yourself how you can prevent it from happening in the future? It may sound easy, but to get to the answer you have to be prepared to give up blame, whether that’s blaming the situation, or the other person(s) involved. How easy would it have been for me to justify my behaviour? And how often do you hear other people justifying why they reacted, or behaved the way they did?
I don’t believe there is any inner peace as a parent, friend or partner with the ‘blame’ approach. To build strong family relationships we benefit the most from leading by example and continuing to grow in our understanding of ourselves and we can do this firstly by accepting we have grown up tantrums and secondly learning how to give them up!
Good luck 🙂