We don’t want to avoid frustration, we want to overcome it! Ironically or unfortunately overcoming frustration as a parent means resting in it! How do I know this? I'm a parent! For those of you that have one child, the precious angel, who never does anything wrong, huge blessings on you! You won, you won the "child" lottery. Now, have another one, frustration is just around the corner.
As parents we have our fair share of emotionally dysregulated moments, sometimes on a daily or hourly basis. When those times come how do we respond?
- Do we react and blurt out whatever we are thinking at the time?
- Do we stuff it and maintain an “appropriate” outward demeanor so we give others the appearance we are handling the frustration well?
- Do we smile and talk to ourselves?
I've done all three. How can we handle frustration in a healthy and appropriate manner? We learn, through experience, how to be content. (See Philippians 4:11)
"I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances."
- Your child is having a terrible, no good, very bad day.
- You are having a terrible, no good, very bad day x2!
There have been some disagreements and sibling flare ups before dinner and now, after dinner, it all hits the fan. As your child is trying to do their home work they blurt out, “Homework is so stupid (Book slam)! It takes to much time (Book throw and eye roll if you have daughters) and I don’t learn anything by doing it. I hate school! And, you are the worst mom ever. You never help me!"
A Simple MAP To Overcome Parental Frustration.
Be mindful of what you observed.
The language, the tone, the book being thrown, the eye roll. As emotions well up inside you what’s your response? Before you react let’s take a look at what it means to be mindful.
Mindfulness Is observing the moment without opinion.
Mindfulness Is observing the moment without judgment.
Mindfulness Is observing without emotion.
Mindfulness Is observing to just get the facts.
Mindfulness Is observing everything with the same level of attention.
- Judgmental: You may think something like this, "You are a selfish little brat!" (Remember, your child behaved in a selfish way but your child is not a selfish brat.)
- I Need to Be Right: I had a bad day too and since I am bigger than you and pay for everything, I win. My needs trump yours.
- Control: I am louder than you so I can tell you what to do even if I react wrong.
Remember: Be attentive to what is going on around you and within you.
Be aware of your response.
You are faced with an opportunity to respond in a healthy and loving way. What does it mean to have awareness in such a tense and highly emotional situation? Here are a few statements worth considering.
I am aware enough to understand.
I am aware enough to validate my child's frustrated feelings.
I am aware enough to take a moment before responding.
I am aware enough to rest before responding.
Often times a simple validation of the the other persons opinion or feelings can reduce the friction and frustration they are experiencing. Validating someones emotions or opinions does not mean you are condoning their behavior, you are simply acknowledging how they feel about something. It's letting them know you understand how they feel.
Which statement below would be the best way to validate a child when they say something like this, “Homework is so stupid (Book slam)! It takes to much time (Book throw and eye roll if you have daughters) and I don’t learn anything by doing it. I hate school! And, you are the worst mom ever. You never help me!"
Which statement below would you consider the best validating statement?
1. “Deal with it! When I was your age I also had a job and had to walk 3 miles to school."
2. “If it’s not home work it’s something else. Honestly, if they were giving out awards for the best complainer you would win."
3. “Just do it and stop complaining."
4. “Whatever! If you don’t want to get into a good college then don’t do it. It’s your future."
5. "I understand how you can feel that way. I know school can sometimes feel overwhelming."
The answer is number 5, in case you were wondering. The response is not judging their behavior nor are you saying the behavior you just witnessed was okay.
Roadblocks to Being Aware
- Pride: I had a bad day too, and it’s all about me.
- Limited Understanding: I don’t know how to act or respond so I yell and send them to their room.
- Emotional Mind: Over reaction to emotional situations. Reacting instead of responding.
Be present in the moment.
Being present in the moment not as a by stander but as an active participant. Being present means you are not on auto pilot letting whatever emotions are welling up inside you to come out. Lean into the moment, be aware of your feelings but don’t act on them.
Being Present Means you are connected.
Being Present Means you are engaged.
Being Present Means you are involved.
Being Present Means you are willing. (I love this one! Are you willing?)
Being Present means you are available.
The tantrum and book throwing can not just be “another event” that passes through your Tuesday night. It’s a opportunity for connection, involvement and engaging love. If you send them to their room for their behavior (And yes, that’s often our first step until both our children and us can get into the MAP mindset) don’t leave it there. Take your MAP and have a conversation with them.
Roadblocks To Being Present:
- Multitasking: Doing more than one thing at a time distracts you from the moment. Be fully engaged with eye to eye contact.
- Clutter: Excessive digital and tangible clutter increases stress and anxiety. Reduce clutter.
- Busyness: Our minds race from one thing to the next because have overloaded lives. Create some margin in your life by spacing out your activities.
There you have it, a simple MAP to help each of us as parents overcome the dreaded Parental Overreaction Syndrome!