Freaking out and making threats… two integrity busters that we have all participated in.
Freaking out is NOT helpful, EVER! Yes, of course this makes sense, however in the heat of the moment, when little Susie has just colored all over the walls with her new set of markers, or Billy has announced that he is dropping out of high school to pursue a career in whale watching, it may feel like the thing to do. Are Susie and Billy’s decisions problematic? Most likely they are, however in the moment of panic and “freak out”, we are not our best selves as parents. We would benefit from taking a much-needed parental time out and get ourselves together before we are able to parent from a connected place. We need to put our own oxygen masks on first so that we are able to help our children navigate and learn from their mistakes (remember the Circle of Security from an earlier blog post?).
Picture this… flying along at an altitude of 30,000 feet, and the oxygen masks fall from the aircraft ceiling. You are with your young child, who is bewildered by what has just occurred. Now, you have two options: with the oxygen level dropping at a precariously fast rate, you may either struggle with getting your child taken care of, gasping for what little oxygen remains in the cabin, and ultimately passing out with your child losing consciousness soon thereafter, or you may put your own mask on first, freeing you to help your child with theirs. Which scenario do you feel better about? I vote for the second one.
We cannot be helpful to our children when we are gasping for air. We would do well to ask ourselves how we are “putting on our own oxygen masks first”. Perhaps it could be taking care of our health and feeling good; maybe focusing on being the best person we can be, garnering an increased sense of self; or perhaps developing a more loving relationship with ourselves. Focusing inward on what we can control, and nurturing that part of us that needs to know that we can handle this adventure called parenting, will allow us the oxygen that we need to be the parents that we want to be.
What about the resultant threat-making that comes on the heels of the “freak out”? Unless we are willing to enforce and often times endure the threat, let us again reach for our internal remote control, and STOP making threats that we will not, or in some incidences cannot, follow-through on. We lose our integrity in doing so, and as Hal Runkel states in his book ScreamFree Parenting, “Empty threats are really broken promises”. Think about that for a moment. I have known the sting of broken promises, as I am sure most of us have, and ouch! What happens to the relationship when this happens repeatedly? Not so great, right?
So next time our children push our buttons (and they will… it’s part of their “job” in growing up), we would do well to pause, make certain that we are filling our own lungs with the oxygen that we need to parent, and proceed in a calm and connected way. No empty threats, no freaking out… by creating this space for our children, we now have the perfect environment to connect with our children.