The Right Thing Is Sometimes the Hardest Thing

Originally posted on August 29, 2011

I have been learning so much much from “Parenting From the Inside Out.”

One of the things that has really stuck with me is how we work through situations with other people. This, of course, is true in parenting, but it fits every relationship. Check this out.

We all can figure out that when something is said or an experience happens, we receive it. Then we process it (grapple with what just happened, what was said/done and the “why?”), and then we respond. That’s a pretty simplified way to explain the millions of different interactions throughout every day.

Receive >>>> Process >>>> Respond

Yet, it’s how we respond that completely alters an interaction. Particularly with parenting, we slide into a default we have seen and experienced over and over and over again. It looks like this:

Interrogate >>>> Judge >>>> Fix

Can you remember a time someone has done this to you? Can you think of dozens, maybe hundreds of times? Roll around in it for a minute. Try to remember what happened. Try to remember how you were feeling. Did you feel you were heard and understood? Were you purposefully being mean/bad/manipulative just for the sake of it?

This process is the norm in parenting. It’s easy to do. It’s not because we’re all bad people who don’t give a crap about our kids. It’s because we’re human and we repeat what we know without ever thinking twice about it. We do this because changing a default habit takes a really, really really long time. I assume I will finally form permanent changes in my parenting about the time I am no longer parenting. THAT’S when it will come easy to me. heh.

So, the example above is a perfect way to disconnect with someone. If behaviors are communication, then we are ignoring their desire to connect with us. Another way, which actually creates collaboration, would look like this:

Explore >>>> Understand >>>> Join

Easy to say, I know. I KNOW! It’s one thing to read this, and nod your head and understand in this moment. It’s another thing to fight your natural gut reaction when you are being triggered by a behavior.

I KNOW. Really. However, there is a big “but” …

The difficulty of doing the right thing does not negate the fact that it’s still the right thing.

So, start by making cheat notes. Write the word “explore” all over your house. Or just big “E”‘s everywhere. Explore. When you feel triggered, that is your alarm to remind you it’s time to explore and understand what is going on with your child. Take a long, deep breath until your eyebrows can lilt in a very loving look of discovery and compassion. If our behaviors are a reflection of what we’re feeling, then keep breathing until you can see the feeling behind the behavior.

Then move to understanding what is really going on. Acknowledge that your child may not experience life in the same way you do. Admit that you don’t know how they feel because you have not had to live through the same experiences. Study them so you can learn.

Finally, join them there. Agree with them. Hear their experience of the situation and let your face join their face. If you truly don’t “get it,” still join them: “I had no idea you felt this way. This must be so hard.” Because if YOU felt that way, would you desperately not want to be alone in it? Join them.

Screw up and try it again the next time, anyway. Practice this so you don’t suck at it so much.

It is when a child’s behavior is taken personally, that the parent reacts. In essence, a parental reactionary stance is telling the child, ‘You need to stop acting this way so I’ll stop feeling this way.’ Look for these unconscious patterns in order to stop shifting the blame onto your child for your own reactions.” – Heather T. Forbes

Yeah … OUCH! Don’t worry. I understand how you feel. I’m joining you. We’re all kinda’ bloody after this one.
(photo by Mariska van Brederide, used with permission)