The moment I allow someone else’s behavior (or words) to affect how I feel, I’ve given that person power and control over me. Have you ever realized that? Has that ever happened to you? It has to me...with kids and adults.
Kids have the innate capability to say things or behave in a way that can trigger a reaction, which is really what they want. And until kids get through their teen years, they lack mental maturity and their behavior and words can be erratic. Let's face it, kids don't always make the best choices or do things in their best interest. It's part of maturing.
Plus, kids are really perceptive and quickly learn when and how they can push our buttons for their benefit. If my kids can tell that their behavior will affect my mood, they are more likely to repeat that behavior, even if they don’t get what they want. It gives them a feeling of control, which is an innate desire.
When our kids were young and would pout, it was their attempt to sway my decision. If I relinquished and complied with their request, it’d be more likely that they’d repeat the behavior and pout again next time they wouldn’t get their way.
Not allowing their behavior to impact how I felt didn’t mean I’d ignore them or pretend I didn’t care. I could still acknowledge what they said and how they felt without it changing my mood. Making a comment to them such as, “I can see that you don’t like my decision and I’m sorry about that,” affords them the satisfaction of at least knowing they’ve been heard.
Rules without relationship leads to rebellion.
Of course, depending upon the severity of their behavior, how I choose to address their actions would vary. It may have required a consequence or reprimand of sort. But it’s how that penalty was initiated that mattered. Was I cool, calm, and collected in my response, or had my feathers obviously been ruffled?
As a father, I have to balance the tension between providing appropriate instruction and discipline without creating an adversarial relationship. Proverbs 19:18 instructs us to discipline our children while there is hope, otherwise, we will ruin their lives. Whereas, Colossians 3:21 says, "Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged." Well known Christian apologist Josh McDowell has said, "Rules without relationship leads to rebellion."
How about you? Have you struggled with allowing the behavior of your kids to affect your mood? If you want to change, you first have to be aware of whether this is a pattern that you’ve fallen into or not. Are you aware of how often your mood is affected by what your kids say or do?
If you feel this is an area for improvement, then you’ll need to practice responding versus reacting. Remember, between stimulus and response is the ability to choose (our response). Anytime you react to what your kids say or do, you give control to your kids. If you’re not controlling your response, you’re allowing others to control your emotions. This is true in any relationship.
Anytime you react to what people say or do, you are giving up control. If you're not intentional in your response others will hijack your emotions.
When our kids misbehave, it also presents us with an opportunity to practice and demonstrate forgiveness. How often have we heard our kids say something that, in the moment, is hurtful toward us? We can’t deny that we are emotional beings, and I’m sure we can all relate to times when we’ve said things we later regret.
In these situations, we have a responsibility to model forgiveness by being the more mature person and expressing forgiveness at the appropriate time, whether the child asks for forgiveness or not. If we don’t, we are setting the seed for bitterness to take root in our own heart.
When our kids learn that their behavior has minimal impact on how we feel and behave, they’ll also learn that we’re someone they can trust…not manipulate. As a result, it offers them a unique sense of security as well as gaining respect for us.
I still don’t get this perfectly right. But by being aware and monitoring my own reaction, I’m better able to respond in a healthy manner.
- Monitor your emotions and how you normally behave when your kids do something that upsets you. Do you respond or react?
- Does their behavior affect how you feel? How long does that feeling last?
- If their behavior affects how you feel for more than a few minutes, that's an indication you've given up control and a new response pattern will serve you and your kids better.