Sweet Emotions by Aerosmith was one of my all-time favorite songs when I was growing up. O.K., so that dates me a little (yes, I’m a child of the eighties). Talking about emotions is, well, an emotional endeavor. How do you feel about that? It behooves us to study this topic a little more and by this study, I hope to help you understand how to better interact with your children. Humans are made up of emotions and logic (thought), or the head and heart. By studying how our emotions affect us and yes, control us, it can help us understand what is going on in a certain situation and change it for the better of all involved.
Stepping Outside of Yourself
Let’s look at an example. You’re running late for an important meeting. Your spouse is supposed to drive you but they are not ready and don’t seem too concerned about it. What emotions might this bring up in you? Anxiety? You don’t want to be late and have a bad first impression. Anger? Your spouse doesn’t care about you and what this meeting means to you. Fear? Panic? Worry?
How about dealing with your kids. They didn’t do their homework again, or worse, lied about doing it. They talk back or can’t seem to EVER be ready when it’s time to go to school (always a mad dash to get to the school bus or in the car). They’ve been sent to detention or called into the principal’s office…..again, etc, etc. Will these situations bring out an immediate emotional response from you? Most definitely YES! And I’m not talking about the good ones. Remember, we ARE emotional creatures. But we are also logical, rational thinking creatures as well.
“One ought to hold on to one’s heart; for if one lets it go, one soon loses control of the head too.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
What if you could step outside yourself in a situation and look at it from a purely logical perspective? Could you identify the emotions that are in play and recognize how they are driving the conversation? What if you could detach yourself from your emotions, gently touch your spouse and get their full attention, looking them straight in the eye and say something like “honey, this meeting is really important to me and it means a lot to me to be on time.” In a nice level normal voice. Do you think this would get them to react more to your liking than yelling at them to “hurry up!!! We’re late! You don’t care about me!!!” How much more our own children then? Remember, THEY are the emotionally immature ones, not us. Our kids are just learning how to handle raw emotions and it’s our job as parents to teach them and help them control these emotions. What are we teaching them by yelling, threatening, belittling them etc.? We must, as parents, separate ourselves from our natural, emotional responses to our children’s behavior. When you can “step outside” yourself, you can look inward, logically and rationally, at your OWN emotions and control them better. This is critical if we are to help our children grow and learn to control their own emotions. Here’s an example. My son is at that age (13) where he already knows everything. “Yes, dad, I know that already”. The other day he was teasing and harassing his sister and causing quite the ruckus. I told him in no uncertain terms to “knock it off”. He then back talked me which is strictly verboten in our house (feeling his oats a little I guess). I very quickly reacted emotionally but caught myself in time to control the situation. I sent him to his room and waited 5 or 10 minutes before going in there and talking to him. This gave me time to calm down, step outside myself and approach the situation from a logical and practical position. I could use this situation as a platform to enforce my authority as the leader of the household but instead I chose to use it as a teaching time. I thought back to when I was a fresh teenager and looked at the emotional immaturity I had at that time. When I went in to talk to him, I had complete control of my emotions and “taught” my son about why it was important that he respect not only me but his sister and his mother. How God expects a young man to act. What the Bible says about obeying your parents, and how God viewed his actions. I bonded with him by sharing experiences from my own youth and how this spirit of rebellion is bound up inside ALL of us and how we must recognize it when it rears its ugly head and deal with it! Gave him a hug and told him I loved him but I expected more from him in the future. Did it help? Was it the right course of action to handle my sons rebellion? I think so. Only time will tell. Try it the next time you feel like blowing up at your kids. Step outside yourself, look at the situation logically and use it to grow your children into responsible adults. It’s better than the yelling and hollering! Let me know your thoughts.
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart”
— Helen Keller