In the moment…
Gripping the steering wheel, I watch as my youngest walks to my car. His slow step, hunched back, and downcast eyes say this day has been difficult. Sighing as he slumps into his seat, he hands me the note from the teacher. Here we go again…
Maybe this has happened to you or maybe this was you as a child, but this is the type of moment you as a parent can make a huge difference. When your child makes mistakes or has a bad day, how do you want them to react? What do you want their habits of thought to be? In this moment, training your child can begin good habits for a lifetime. Your words may become the self talk your child hears every time he or she feels like this. What do you want them to hear?
Training Your Child Response
- “You look upset.”
Acknowledging feelings allows you to take cognitive control over them. It allows you to find a way to handle the issue that alleviates the problem. Helping your child to identify and talk about their feeling means they don’t have to express it with their bodies, they don’t have to suppress it with their mind, and the issue can be directly handled. Problems that evoke anger are solved differently from problems that are evoked by frustration.
- “Everybody makes mistakes.” [For christian parents, this is Romans 3:23]
Teaching your child that mistakes are a natural part of life with others allows them to show grace and forgiveness in difficult situations. Placing blame, feeling shame, these get in the way of solving actual problems and can do lasting harm to relationships and hearts. Teaching our children to give grace to themselves starts with you giving them grace as well.
- “Let’s focus on your choices.”
Once you have identified the problem, focusing your attention on the next step helps us problem solve. You can talk about what you wish you had done differently, or you can focus on how to fix a broken relationship. We don’t want to be stuck here again so we better figure a way out. There is always a way out. [1 Corinthians 10:13]
Training your child to respond to crisis by identifying their feeling, normalizing mistakes, and planning for the next time changes their responses. Your contribution to their inner voice can be-You are upset. Mistakes are normal. You can do better next time. And these words can be heard in your voice in their head at the time they need it most.
My favorite professor in college had a saying: “This is a Day of Opportunity” He would say this when he handed out the test that had crazy questions like: What is validity? and expect you to answer with 15 points and references you had memorized. When I wrote this article, I was thinking about the Days of Opportunity that I have in my post graduate school life. Days where my choices and reactions make huge differences. Do you need help with you Day of Opportunity? Is there a situation or relationship that has you stumped? Acorn helps people turn bad stuff into opportunities all the time. Call us, one of our clinicians will answer. 940-222-8703.