First let me say we don’t want to avoid frustration but learn how to overcome it when it arrives. As parents we have our fair share of emotionally dysregulated moments. When those times come how do we respond? Do we react in an unhealthy way and blurt out whatever we are thinking at the time? Do we stuff it and maintain an “appropriate” outward demeanor so we give others the appearance we are handling the frustration well? (As a side note, it is my belief that the latter produces the worst results)
How can we handle frustration in a healthy and appropriate manner? I don’t know about you but I want to be on an emotionally healthy journey so one day I can arrive at the same place Paul did when he wrote the words in Philippians 4:11 MSG.
I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances.
For that journey to daily contentment I want to share with you a simple MAP that will help each of us process frustration in a healthy way and allow each of us to experience freedom from those negative emotions we feel.
Let me give you a situation in which most of us as parents have observed, engaged in and got frustrated with in the past.
- Your child is having a terrible, no good, very bad day.
- You are having a terrible, no good, very bad day x2!
There have been some disagreements and sibling flare ups before dinner and now, after dinner, it all hits the fan. As your child is trying to do their home work they blurt out,
“Homework is so stupid (Book slam)! It takes to much time (Book throw) and I don’t learn anything by doing it. I hate school! And, you are the worst mom ever. You never help me!”
When this happens it’s time to pull out your MAP and navigate to a healthy response.
Be mindful of what you observed.
The language, the tone, the book being thrown. As emotions well up inside you what’s your response? Before you respond let’s take a look at what it means to be mindful.
Mindfulness Is observing the moment without opinion.
Mindfulness Is observing the moment without judgment.
Mindfulness Is observing without emotion.
Mindfulness Is observing to just get the facts.
Mindfulness Is observing everything with the same level of attention.
Roadblocks To Being Mindful
- Judgmental: “You are a selfish little brat!” (Your child behaved in a selfish way but your child is not “a” selfish brat.)
- Need to Be Right: I had a bad day too and since I am bigger than you my problems trump yours.
- Desire To Control: I am bigger than you so I can tell you what to do even if I am wrong.
Be attentive to what is going on around you and within you.
Be aware of your response.
You are faced with an opportunity to respond in a healthy and loving way. What does it mean to have awareness in such a tense and highly emotional situation? Here are a few statements worth considering.
I am aware enough to understand.
I am aware enough to validate their feelings.
I am aware enough to take a moment before responding.
I am aware enough to rest before responding.
Be aware enough to validate their feelings and avoid a fight. Most fights or disagreements in the marketplace or in the home come from a desire to be right or a desire to control. It’s easier at home with your kids and tougher at the office with your boss. One is usually small enough to be controlled and the other one can fire you.
Often times a simple validation of the the other persons opinion or feelings can reduce the friction and frustration they are experiencing. Validating someones emotions or opinions does not mean you are agreeing with them. It simply means you understand.
Which statement below would be the best way to validate a child when they say something like this, “Homework is so stupid (Book slam)! It takes to much time (Book throw) and I don’t learn anything by doing it. I hate school! And, you are the worst mom ever. You never help me!”
Which statement below would you consider the best validating statement?
1. “Deal with it! When I was your age I also had a job and had to walk 3 miles to school.”
2. “If it’s not home work it’s something else. Honestly, if they were giving out awards for the best complainer you would win.”
3. “Just do it and stop complaining.”
4. “Whatever! If you don’t want to get into a good college then don’t do it. It’s your future.”
5. “I understand how you can feel that way. I know school can sometimes feel overwhelming.”
The answer is number 5, in case you were wondering. The response is not judging their behavior nor are you saying the behavior you just witnessed is ok, its not ok. You are validating their feelings, their experience and their frustration.
Roadblocks to Being Aware
- Pride: I had a bad day too…and it’s all about me.
- Limited Understanding: I don’t know how to act or respond so i just yell and send them to their room.
- Emotional Mind: Over reaction and high reactivity to emotional situations.
Be present in the moment.
Not as a by stander but as an active participant. Being present means you are not on auto pilot letting whatever emotions are welling up inside you come out. Lean into the moment, be aware of your feelings but don’t act on them.
Being Present Means you are connected.
Being Present Means you are engaged.
Being Present Means you are involved.
Being Present Means you are willing.
Being Present means you are available.
The tantrum and book throwing can not just be “another event” that passes through your Tuesday night. It’s a chance for connection, involvement and engaging love. If you send them to their room for their behavior (And yes, that’s often our first step until both our children and us can get into the MAP mindset) don’t leave it there. Take your MAP and have a conversation with them.
Roadblocks To Being Present:
- Multitasking: Doing more than one thing at a time distracts you from the moment. Be fully engaged with eye to eye contact.
- Clutter: Excessive digital and tangible clutter increases stress and anxiety. Reduce clutter.
- Busyness: Our minds race from one thing to the next because have overloaded lives. Create some margin in your life by spacing out your activities.
There you have it. A MAP for your next emotional parenting moment. Remember…
- Be mindful of what you observed.
- Be aware of your response.
- Be present in the moment.
Each day ask yourself this question. “Are you present enough in the moment to be mindfully aware?”
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