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Angela Tewalt

November 30, 2016

Reacting vs Responding

Here’s something to reflect on: In parenting, are you more likely to react or respond to your child’s behavior?

That’s a big question. One perhaps you may never have even considered before. But that’s ok! As parents, we need to constantly remind ourselves to be more aware of how we’re doing.

Knowing the answer to this question is a good place to start.

Here’s the difference: A reaction is impulsive, and a response is intentional.

When we react to our children, it is an unconscious and emotional reply. A reaction is a thoughtless act that may be driven by impatience, anger or anxiety. Examples include, “Stop whining!” or “Eat your dinner!” or “I said, ‘No!’ ”

And it’s not uncommon.

Even in our adult world, our bodies often react before responding. If we feel defensive or unheard, we react. Even in conversations, our tendencies can be to react before fully thinking through a thought.

But responding has a stronger, more meaningful impact. Both with adults and with our families.

When we respond to our children, it a conscious, thoughtful and respectful reply. There is reasoning behind our words, a rationality that can be justified, and it is delivered with kindness.

Instead of, “Stop whining!” it is, “If you talk to me in a calm voice, I am more able to help you.” Instead of, “No more crying!” it is, “I’m sorry you’re hurting right now. Is there something I can do to make you feel better?” Instead of a repetitive, “No,” revert your child’s attention. “I would love to do a puzzle with you instead.”

A response avoids a threat and leads to resolution more quickly. Your child is also more likely to open up and listen when spoken to in a rational tone.

There is also mature assertiveness behind a response. When we react, we are simply acting in the same unreasonable behavior as the child. But by responding, your child can sense your leadership and feels safe to reason with you through a situation.

Avoiding reactions is not easy, especially when we know it is an impulse reply. Sometimes we don’t even mean to! But the more aware we become of how we communicate with and treat our children, the more easy it will be to habitually respond calmly and kindly.

This is practicing mindfulness.

The truth is, we all have big emotions. Even as adults! But choosing to respond and not react still acknowledges the emotion but then finds a solution instead of dwelling on it. It is saying to our child and to ourselves, “I want peace and respect between us, and I know we can get there together.”

I know you can, too.

Do you have any examples of when you turned a reaction into a response? Share in the chat!

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