My youngest loves the shower. Maybe it is the feeling of the water running over his skin. Maybe it’s a cave of solitude and peace. Maybe he loves the vacuum of silence that envelopes him when the water runs over his head and blocks the sound from his ears. I will often find him sitting on the floor of the shower in lotus position, his eyes gently closed. For some reason, the shower is a place in which he finds something good.
Yesterday I heard the water sloshing and as I looked into the shower he was swishing the water collecting in the bottom of the shower as he, knowingly or unknowingly, blocked the plug. As a result of this, water was making its way out of the shower, like a tidal wave, and flooding the bathroom floor.
I immediately yelled out for him to stop but it took a while for him to register, he wasn’t even thinking about what his actions were causing outside of the shower.
My immediate thoughts swelled around all the clean up and a wild flurry of emotions swamped me. Anger, disappointment and frustration, coupled with biting my lip and wanting to laugh. If I am unconscious of my emotional reactions to things like this, I easily act from them. While I may get a message across in my rage, it is often destructive.
Truth is, he made a mistake, he didn’t think about the consequences of his actions and as a result there was unnecessary work to do. Of course, when it comes to young children this usually requires us to help clean up their mess.
This sort of thing happens so often during our parenting journey. Spilt milk at breakfast, a glass of juice dropped and smashed on the floor. Crumbs all over the couch and paint on the carpet or the wall. Hardened and destroyed brushes when they forget to clean up after their work and a broken window, or two, when they play down ball inside the house. Usually this all happens after we have told them over and over again not to do it! This is why the frustration comes in like a furious fire, welling up inside. We fear that they will never learn, that they won’t respect the environments they find themselves in and worse still, that this sort of thing will get them into more trouble outside of the home. This fear, whilst totally normal for parents, is what usually drives how we react to their mishaps.
Some questions that come up for me after an incident like this are;
Are we conscious of how our own emotions rise up and play sergeant to how we react to our children?
How easily do we justify yelling at them, calling them names and calling their character into question?
Can we be more in control of ourselves so that they do not have to bare the brunt of our negative emotions?
We may feel overwhelmed by the constant need for self-awareness and self-control, but reacting out of fear, while it may allow us to get what we want in the short term, is destructive long term.
I believe this challenge calls us to do 2 things;
- To be acutely aware of our own emotions and how they drive our reactions to life and the people in it and,
- When our emotions run high, teaching ourselves to remain calm and respond in a way that best serves the highest good.
When we serve the highest good, whether with our children or other people in our lives, we may still have to deal with our own frustration and anger but we do not have to justify a destructive reaction. This is because truly serving another person and their highest good will always lie in the realms of acceptance, love and respect.
So my advice is, JUST BREATHE!!! BREATHE first and then CHOOSE how you respond from a place of acceptance, love and respect.
PS. This is something I have to work on everyday. I make lots of mistakes but it’s okay. We are not robots, we are mothers and fathers doing the best that we can do!! Make sure you extend that acceptance, love and respect to yourself too!!