Learning to Respond, Not React
I’m reading a new book that is challenging me in many ways. Not just as a parent but in all of my relationships. The idea I’m currently sitting with is “responding, not reacting.”
Reacting is second nature. Something happens, we react. Particularly I find, when it comes to our kids. As an adult, I really struggle with this, yet I expect my 3.5 year old son to demonstrate the skill of self regulation and self control consistently. If I can’t consistently model for him how to stay calm and respond instead of react, how am I being at all realistic in my desire for him to do that?
As a parent, it is hard to watch our kids struggle. Really hard. We want to swoop in and save them, whether it is from the disappointment of a Play-Doh creation being destroyed or a bad grade on a test, it’s really challenging to let our kids experience hardship.
However, we are unintentionally sending our kids the wrong message when we step in so quickly. In the book, “Are My Kids On Track?” there is a quote from Albert Einstein that says, “It’s not that I’m smart. It’s that I stay with problems longer.” The reason he was able to stay with problems is because no one was swooping in to solve his problems for him. Sometimes, we forget to give kids the opportunity to struggle with their problems and inadvertently send the message we don’t think they can handle it on their own.
One way I have been working on responding, instead of reacting, is by asking questions. The book, “Are My Kids On Track?” gives a list of questions that I have found incredibly helpful. For example, yesterday Keener was building with Magnatiles and Grace knocked it down. Instead of swooping right in, I watched and waited, first responding with empathy and validation. That’s frustrating that your tower was knocked down. Then, I asked him What do you think would help? While he verbally responded “nothing” he started rebuilding right away. I noticed you made a choice to start building it again. You solved that problem on your own by fixing your tower.
Questions To Ask
The book mentions the following questions as a way to help motivate kids to stay with their problems and limit ourselves from being their solution:
- What do you want to see happen?
- What do you think would help?
- What would you like to do about that?
- What does your heart tell you?
- What’s your game plan?
- What are you thinking?
- How do you want to solve that?