If everyone could always find the tiny space between their feelings and their reaction, and instead choose to respond, parenting would be a whole lot easier. Right?
Respond, don’t react! It sounds simple. But sometimes it doesn’t feel that way.
That’s because the first step is doing some important internal work and understanding why you are reacting on instinct in the first place.
The good news is, when you do that, that little space starts to get bigger. You feel triggered, but you understand yourself more, you have worked through some of those feelings, fears, and past experiences. No, it doesn’t happen over night, and you certainly will have to revisit the same things over and over again and keep working on them, but the more you practice, the easier it becomes.
Now, let’s talk about that little space. That space between when one of your children has hurt their sibling and you feel instantly angry and frustrated, and your reaction. What do you do in that space to regain your composure, regulate yourself, and figure out how to respond respectfully instead of just reacting.
A few things! Different things work for different people. Firstly, always keep people safe depending on what’s going on. You definitely want to stop any physical harm. Secondly, do something that will help you get some perspective and calm.
One thing that I find helpful is having some mantras that I can say to myself that will instantly remind me of my goals and intentions. I find them really helpful and maybe you will too!
Six Mantras for Respectful Parents
“This is an opportunity”
Conflict, problems, feelings, and disagreements can be opportunities for learning, growing, or connection. It’s so helpful to remind myself of this before I react. If I can remember this, the perspective shift is huge.
Instead of a struggle I see an opportunity to know my children more deeply, to connect and work this out together, to understand more about myself and my triggers. Conflict is not to be avoided or shut down as quickly as possible, it is part of life and learning.
“Connection is my number one goal”
This pretty sums up my parenting philosophy. It’s all about connection. It underpins everything. It is the foundation to everything. I want a deep connection with my children. As long as we have that, we can work anything out. Mainstream parenting techniques commonly sever connection, and if we were raised that way we may find ourselves responding the same under stress. So I like to remind myself that my goal is always connection. Connect FIRST. Before anything else.
“I am an ally, not an adversary”
I hope my children always feel we are on the same team, working together to make sure everyone’s needs are met. That no one is more important or has more power and control than anyone else. We are all equals in our family. This mantra is a simple reminder of that, and what being an ally to our children means.
“I am open to all feelings”
I want to support my children to be emotionally healthy and have the tools they need to cope when they’re feeling overwhelmed. I can not do that if I won’t let them express their feelings. However, it can be a difficult task if you didn’t have the same opportunity in childhood. Sometimes other people experiencing big feelings can be very uncomfortable. The good news is, the more we practice, the easier it gets. It helps to remind myself that all feelings are ok, even if I feel uncomfortable.
“I radiate empathy”
When my children are struggling, when they feel overwhelmed and upset, I want them to feel that I am the place they can come to for empathy and understanding. Empathy is the answer to almost anything. I cannot stress this enough. When in doubt, empathise. No clue how to solve a problem? Empathise.
It’s amazing the power of a little empathy. When people feel understood, accepted, and supported, they are free to be their best selves. They can regulate their intense feelings when there is someone there to support them and empathise. Everyone needs empathy.
“This is not an emergency”
Sometimes we just want the conflict to end so everything can return to calm, so we rush it. This is when we can resort to control and manipulation. I definitely don’t want to do that. Things work out better when I can slow down, take my time, and make sure everyone has their feelings and needs heard. It’s helpful to remind myself that these situations are not an emergency.
I hope you’ll find these helpful in those stressful moments. Please let me know if you try them and how you go. What else works for you?