Parents: Respond, Don’t React

Kids learn quickly. They have a high level of control over their parents. There are certain things they can do to get their parents attention. It happens naturally right out of the womb with a cry.

But as the child grows, the parents must mature in the way they come running. There have been times when my child only seemed to be crying because I gasped when they almost got hurt. They weren’t hurt, but they were upset because I was upset. Other times, I have more quietly walked over to my child just as danger approached and everything remained calm – they never even realized.

As a child enters the teenage years and beyond, a parent’s response can become even more crucial. Teens will naturally test the limits as they are learning what it means to become an adult.

Here’s a rule for parents: Don’t react, respond. Learn the art of giving some thought to what needs to be said or done. There’s a reason the medical and fire teams are called “first responders” and not “first reactors.”

Look at it this way: if a doctor says, you’re responding to your medicine, that’s good.  But if he says, your reacting to it, that’s bad. Kids need parents who can respond well.

If the child has done some attention-getting thing that you don’t like, take a moment to think about a response. Don’t just give into their wishes for a reaction from you.

One of my favorite teachers was in 4th grade. One morning, before the teacher arrived, the whole classes decided to sit at the wrong desk to see what the teacher would do. Mr. Benton walked in, looked around, smiled and said, “you guys got me, that was good! And since you seem to want a different view, let’s a take a few minutes this morning and all switch our desks to a new spot.”

Mr. Benton didn’t react, he responded and I’ve remembered it ever since.

I wish I could say I always respond well in parenting situations. It seems like a constant learning curve, but just knowing this concept makes me want to respond when needed.

Practice it today.

Think first, then speak.

Realize that response can be an act of love.

Create space for responding to your kids – unplug from your computer or phone, spend time around dinner, be present.

When you react, especially overreact, apologize.

Respond to positive things for sure – don’t just wait until your child does something wrong. Reward them with words and affirmation for the things they show you or accomplish – small or large!

Get into the habit of responding not reacting.


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