Focusing on the fix, not the problem

This week’s edition of trying to lose it less…

Keener showed me the Bumbo seat we’ve been using for Mack. My first instinct was to lose it.

Thankfully, unlike my hose incident, I did not take the marker and write all over one of his chairs. Instead, I took a breath.

When I grabbed the hose a few weeks ago, I did not find the space between stimulus and response. This time, I did — barely.

Before remembering to take a breath, my brain defaulted to perceiving him as a lion. And had I not been paying attention, I would have entered fight or flight mode. Let’s be honest, it would have absolutely been fight.

However, I am working on trying to take that breath. To retrain my brain to find that space so that I don’t perceive my child as a lion every time he doesn’t listen or does something that is disappointing.

Increasing Awareness

“Awareness is the first step, really, to make any kind of change.”

Dr. Rangan Chatterjee

The first step that has helped me is increasing my awareness. There is no way I can possibly change my response if I am not aware of how I am responding. For the longest time I’ve been on auto pilot and simply reacting, not responding. In order to respond, I’ve had to increase my awareness to these stressful moments.

How are you going to fix this?

Now that I am more aware, I am trying to figure out ways to help me find that split second when sh*t hits the fan. There isn’t much time so often by the time I realize I need to take a breath, I’ve already over reacted and lost it. What has helped me to take that breath and find the moment is by focusing on the fix.

When Keener showed me the Bumbo seat, I wanted to react: “Why did you do that? What is wrong with you?” However, instead, I tried to channel my frustration into the solution. The times I have been able to do, it has given me a prayer of saying something productive/helpful and not perceiving him as a threat.

For this instance, I think I said, “Hmmm (while taking a breath)… How are you going to fix it?”

This question puts the responsibility back on him. You’ve done something. It was a mistake. How are you going to make it right?

Together we came up with trying to get it off. We got a wet paper towel and he started scrubbing. He asked me to help him and together, we got most of it off.

Prepare for these moments

When I am not IN these moments, I take a few minutes to prepare for them. My mantra is “My child is not a lion,” and while it feels silly, it has helped my brain reprogram. In essence, I am telling myself ahead of time, my child not listening is absolutely frustrating, but this is not life or death.

Our brains are meant to keep us alive. To help us perceive threat and keep ourselves safe. However, without thinking, spilled milk becomes a lion. Marker on a Bumbo seat becomes a lion. And not getting out of the bath the first time I ask becomes a lion.

With time and space from these moments, it is rather clear that these are not, in fact, lions about to eat us. There is no need to fight or flight. There is no risk and no threat. And when I act like there is when there really isn’t, there are only negative outcomes:

  • I am modeling that everything frustrating should be perceived as a threat
  • I am feeding into my own stress response
  • I am continuing to wire my brain to respond from a place of fight or flight

I certainly don’t always find that space in which I can choose my response. However, I know there are plenty of stressful opportunities to practice being more mindful right around the corner. With a 5 day weekend, it’s a guarantee!

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Victor Frankl

2 comments

  1. Hi Jenny! Great insights for loving and living with children and people of all ages! Also, I couldn’t help but notice that Keener’s writing is quite good- however misplaced.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.