By David Benzel
It’s an obvious fact that nothing stirs the emotions quite like your child’s misbehavior. It can be the catalyst for losing control emotionally without realizing what really happened.
I can still picture the baseball field where my son got ejected from a game at age 11. A disrespectful negative comment toward an umpire after his second throwing error earned him a one way ticket to the bench for the day. I can still see the incident and feel the heat of my emotions rising to an unproductive boil as he walked to the dugout in the second inning of a seven inning game. He was, of course, mad at the umpire but I was mad at him. All I could think about was the punishment I wanted to deliver once we got home: bread and water only, and six months of hard labor in the back yard!
The true lesson of the day however turned out to be rewarding for both of us. In the remaining five innings of the game, my thinking shifted from the impulsive basement of my brain to the creative balcony of my cerebral cortex. It is that journey that I wish to describe here because it is a logical and repeatable excursion that all parents can make to avoid emotional hijacking.
In a nutshell, here’s the pathway FROM emotional rage TO emotional control, and to better solutions to our parenting situations.
FROM: Judgment – What a stupid thing to do!
TO: Curiosity – I wonder why he would do that?
FROM: Embarrassment – What will the other parents think of him…and me?
TO: Assessment – I imagine he was embarrassed by his throwing errors AND getting ejected.
FROM: Anger – I’m going to teach him not to screw up like this again.
TO: Insight (AHA!) – This is an opportunity for him to learn self-control.
FROM: Revenge – I can think of several ways to make him pay for this behavior.
TO: Understanding – There’s a pattern of thought in his mind that needs an upgrade.
FROM: Question #1 – What can I do to make myself feel better about this?
TO: Question #1 – How can I help him with this aspect of his character?
FROM: Negative outcome = resentment.
TO: Positive outcome = growth & development
In our case the solution was not muscle-building labor in the backyard, but instead mind-building labor in the library. It was decided that our son would read a book about self-control, and how to choose positive responses to negative situations. The impact was meaningful and long lasting. The ultimate lesson is to recognize that what happens to us each day is not nearly as important as how we respond to what happens. Ask yourself this question: “How often are my responses to situations just as emotional and out of control as my child’s?” Try thinking about “TO” – as in, where do you want to be emotionally, instead of where you are? And remember, we don’t always have the luxury of five innings to cool down!
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David Benzel is the Founder and Executive Director of Growing Champions for Life, Inc., which provides parents and coaches with practical tools & positive strategies for helping athletes reach their full potential while enjoying the youth sport experience. David is also the author of “From Chump to Champ – How Individuals Go From Good to Great” www.growingchampionsforlife.com.