Sitting on the deck reading while enjoying the warmth of the early summer sun, I barely noticed the activity at the pool nestled behind the evergreens. Immersed in my book, I was suddenly blasted with a string of profanity being hurled from the pool area. In a fit of anger, I watched a dad rant as he paced along the pool deck screaming obscenities while what looked like junior high age kids and younger continued to play in the pool. As I sat amazed, shell-shocked actually, I noticed it took more than 10 minutes for this grown man to finally calm himself enough to be able to communicate to his kids that it was time to leave.
Talk about an anger issue.
But what about us as parents? We might not be as explosive as the temperament of this man, but do we react to things our kids do in a way that others might sit up and take notice if they were to witness the outburst?
I’ll be the first to admit that there were phases in our parenting when our home was anything but calm. Having had four teens under our roof at the same time at times equaled chaos and sometimes my responses as a mom didn’t help the circumstance. Instead of bringing a gentle and quiet spirit into a conflict I would sometimes escalate the problem simply to be heard.
But what causes these outbursts in us? And how do we determine the root cause so that we can learn to respond rather than react?
As adults we need to look deep within ourselves in order to put the pieces of what might seem like a puzzle together. “Oh, I guess I’m just like my mom or dad isn’t a good enough response.” If we want to be able to have influence with our teens, we need to show them that we have self-control. After all, isn’t that what we want from them?
Looking at our childhood is a great place to start.
- Did your parents or other close family members react in ways that as you look back were a little over the top? If so, has it become ingrained so that it seems normal to you?
- What are your fears? Sometimes our fears are rooted to something that we are afraid will happen in the future because we saw it happen to someone else in the past. For example. Your brother totaled his car at 16 so you might have a fear of your child driving.
- What are your beliefs when it comes to potential issues with your kids? Dating, drinking, language, sex, clothing, hair, friends, church attendance, and a host of other things make up part of our belief system. Which ones are you more likely to react over?
Once you’ve had time to visit your childhood through realistic adult eyes, ask yourself if you can really control these things.
Let’s face it. All of us want our kids to turn out to become the person we dreamed they would be. In order to do that we think we need to be in control even though once our kids hit the junior high years, it becomes obvious to most of us that we can’t control the other person.
Learning to let go of our fears and relinquish control to a God who loves us and our children takes effort from us. We have to learn better ways of bringing calm into the situation rather than reacting to our kids by getting upset and lashing out.
- Learn to pause and breathe in the heat of the moment. Deep breathing and counting to 10 brings oxygen to the brain rescuing it from a fight or flight response. It will actually help you engage your brain better. If that doesn’t work, let the person know that you need to break from the conversation to give yourself time to get your emotions under control.
- Ask yourself what you are afraid of and what you are trying to control. Reactions are about you and not the other person. What are you feeling? Why does this make you feel like you are not in control?
- Look at the situation from your child’s perspective. Sometimes we need to look beyond the NOW we are in. What else is at play with our child’s reactions? Is there a big test coming up? Did he get in a fight with a friend? Many times the conflict we find ourselves in with our child has very little to do with the current situation.
- If you are feeling the pressure of an immediate response, say “Let me think about it”. Putting boundaries in place so that your teens know that you will not give them a response at a moments notice will allow you time to exercise this option most of the time.
- Learn to think positively. Many of us typically think of the worst outcome when, in fact, most situations have several alternatives. By learning to look at potential options rather than focusing on the worst scenario, we will be able to change our outlook to the positive.
Just last week I was sitting in the family room holding our new grandson while my husband and son were in a conversation in the kitchen that was starting to escalate. I’m sure I was probably more aware of the increased intensity of their conversation because of the baby’s startled reaction. Knowing what to look for, it became obvious to me what my husband feared most in the moment. I gently reminded both of them several times that the situation was escalating. By doing so, I noticed that my husband was finally able to verbalize his fear to my son in a way that my son understood. My son then reassured his dad that his fear would not materialize. With that the problem was resolved.
Being aware of our reaction is the first step to self-control. Being able to identify the fear can help bring resolution to an escalating discussion.
1 Timothy 1:7
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
Dare you to look at your own reactions as you parent your tweens and teens. What steps do you need to take be be the calm parent instead of the reactive parent?
“Let go…and Let God”,
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