Every situation, with our children, leads us to a Reaction or a choice to execute Wise Action. Reactions are mindless and manifest as unwanted parenting behaviors such as yelling, bribery and threats. Wise Actions require our response-ability and manifest as response-able parenting behaviors such as handling emotions, speaking assertively and creating space for understanding.
Check out the following situation. I will offer a Reaction and Wise Action to illustrate the contrast between the two.
Rebecca went to a UPS Store to return a package to Amazon. Her four-year-old and 10-month old sons were with her. She had the package on her left hip and the baby on the right one. She told her four-year-old, Austin, to stay close by as they walked through the parking lot.
Once inside, there was a line. Austin started to wander. Rebecca would call him back and he would quickly return.
When it was Rebecca’s turn, she propped the baby up on the counter and told Austin to stay by her side. When Rebecca was finished, she looked down and did not see Austin. A wave of panic washed over her. She called his name and he did not appear. A fellow parent in the line said, “He’s over there by the bubble wrap.”
Rebecca grabs the baby off of the counter, briskly marches up to Austin, and snaps, “What are you doing? I told you to stay next to me. All you care about is playing. Why are you touching that bubble wrap? No one gave you permission to play with that.” She grabs Austin’s hand before he has time to stand up and says, “Let’s go, and there is no phone for you in the car mister.” Austin starts to cry.
Rebecca picks up the baby from the counter and says, “Let’s go find your brother.” She gets Austin in her line of sight and sees him sitting safely on the floor trying to pop bubble wrap. She takes a deep breath to calm herself down and begins to mentally coach herself, “That was scary. He is safe. You are safe.”
Rebecca walks over to Austin and kneels down with the baby. Austin looks up and says, “Look,” as he points to the bubble wrap with excitement. Rebecca breathes again and says, “Austin, I did not know where you were, and I felt scared. I am glad you are safe, and your job is to stay next to Mommy when I tell you to. Put the bubble wrap on the shelf.” Austin stands up and puts away the bubble wrap. Rebecca firmly says, “Take my hand.” They leave the store. Later that day, during a time of calm, Rebecca revisits the situation with Austin. They create a picture of ways to be safe when they go to stores.
Rebecca used to believe she did not have a choice when it came to handling situations with Austin. She often felt outnumbered and out-of-control. Once she learned the skills to execute Wise Action and coach herself through the process, her life felt more manageable and she was able to see Austin as a little boy in need of guidance instead of a personal source of upset. Life is so much more when we live in love instead of fear, and we can all get there!
I empower parents and teachers to feel calm, capable, and confident so that they can problem-solve and create new possibilities with their children.
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