React vs. Respond  

In prehistoric times, it was all about survival.  Adults needed to protect their children from saber toothed tigers and fight to survive daily.  Today, it seems parents have carried with them that same innate need to protect their children, but they are stepping in to protect when there are no saber toothed tigers!  

Doone Estey, Beverley Cathcart-Ross and Martin Nash, MD., provide examples of this in their new book, Raising Great Parents.  They compare how a prehistoric adult would react to fight off a big, dangerous animals to how parents today can react when their child is late for school or playing video games instead of doing homework.  They state, parents can react “protectively to our children’s misbehavior as if they are in a life or death situation.”  In most of our daily interactions with children, they are not in a life or death situation and we could change our reactions (instinctual, immediate actions done to protect survival) into a response (logical, thought out action).

In Raising Great Parents, Jane Nelson and Lynn Lott are cited for their 7 questions to consider in order to help decrease a reaction and increase a response.  The 7 questions “move a parent from fear-based thinking to reflecting on their long-term goal, the motivation behinds their child’s misbehavior, and the ways to approach situations cooperatively with the child.”

  1. Are we in saber-toothed tiger territory here or not?
  2. What lessons are most important for my child to learn in this situation?
  3. Am I parenting to get through the day or for the long term?
  4. Am I expecting too much from my child, given his/her age or experiences? Is it my patience that is wearing thin?
  5. If I approach the situation as a puzzle, what can I figure out about my child’s current emotional situation? Is he/she tired, hungry, frustrated, hurting?
  6. Has my approach contributed a piece to the puzzle? Are my tone or facial expressions getting the better of me?
  7. If I can my perception to see this situation as a problem-solving opportunity, how can I involve my child in finding a solution?

Review and practicing using these questions so the next time your child misbehaviors, and you swear there is a saber tooth tiger approaching, you can use these questions to respond to your child calmly and logically.