Daniel gives away his power regularly. Actually, I think a lot of us do, but it is easy to see in Daniel.
“I only hit Robert because he makes me mad. He ruins my life!” Daniel yells at me.
I explain that in life there will be a lot of triggers. People can be frustrating, irritating, even unreasonable. However, he will be held responsible for how he behaves.
Telling a judge that you went postal because of how frustrating the people at work were is rarely a viable defense. When Daniel lets himself go in response to irritation, he gives away his power. In his own mind, he is at the mercy of other people. He can only behave in response to them. They dictate his emotional state and wellbeing. I challenge him to learn to keep his power by maintaining control of his responses.
I feel a little hypocritical as I say this. So many times I give my power away, particularly to my kids. I wear down and give into my frustration and find myself the frazzled, yelling mom. It is a simple concept but difficult in practice. How do I maintain control of my responses when the day is long and the kids are loud?
- Remembering my kindergarten teacher. My kindergarten teacher had this way of smiling in the middle of everything. Even when you were getting in trouble, she would be smiling at you as though she found it secretly amusing. As a child, I found this very frustrating. I was upset, I didn’t want her laughing at my expense. Now, I understand that just smiling can force me to measure my response and even find humor in the situation.
- Finding humor in the situation. Nothing snaps me out of frustration mode like finding a reason to laugh (even if I wait to do so until later).
“If you forgot your agenda, how do I know you don’t have any homework?” I ask.
“Because, I remember that I don’t have any homework.” Daniel responds.
“But in the past, you have told me that you didn’t have any homework and the next day when your agenda comes home, we find that you really did have homework. Then you tell me that you forgot. The reason you have an agenda is so you don’t have to remember your homework, just your agenda.” I explain. “What can we do to help you make remembering your agenda a priority? If I don’t have your agenda, I don’t know what homework you have. If I don’t know what homework you have, how do I know that you have earned the tv time you receive when your homework is complete?”
Sensing a consequence coming down the line, Daniel quickly explains, “Those times, I just told you I didn’t have homework so you wouldn’t be mad that I forgot my agenda, but this time, I am really telling the truth. I don’t have any homework.”
Stifling a laugh, “So, why should I believe you this time? You just told me that in the past you lied about whether you had homework to try to prevent trouble from leaving your agenda at school. How do I know your not just lying again?”
The quizzical look on Daniel’s face is almost more than I can resist.
- Deep breath and giving myself a time out. I have found that if I can get myself to take one deep breath before I respond, I will know if this is something I can deal with right now or if I need to take a couple minutes to compose myself and gather my thoughts first. Even if it is a situation that can not wait while I compose myself, taking a deep breath can get me to level my tone and handle things calmly.
- Consistency. Being consistent takes the guess work out of a lot of situations. Not having to come up with a solution every time, can help me stay calm and just respond to the situation.
These are all pretty basic. However, they is still often hard to remember in practice. Since actions speak louder than words, I hope that I model these behaviors often enough for my kids.
How do you keep from becoming reactionary? Particularly at the end of a long day with lots of chaos?