I recently talked to a mom who said “My daughter hates me, she told me so as she stormed off and slammed her bedroom door.” (Ah daughters, don’t you just love them for their melodramatic exists from a room?) Obviously there was a lot more to the story that I was not aware of but that was ok. I asked the mom she was feeling in that moment. She used words like blood boiling, fury and frustration. Her daughter had acted, or reacted, in a way that was unacceptable. She knew they both needed time to cool off, but she was so angry over what had transpired and the way it had all gone down that she was questioning what the right next steps should be. Should she take away screen time for slamming the door? Should she cancel weekend plans for being rude and disrespectful to her mother? Her mind was swirling with thoughts that all of us have wrestled with at one time or another.
Her situation made me think of a question Dr. Shefali asks in The Awakened Family: “What’s the antidote to the energy your child is exhibiting?” I love this concept of the antidote. The definition of antidote is “a medicine or other remedy for counteracting the effects of poison” or the second definition is “something that prevents or counteracts unwanted effects”. Both definitions are relevant in this situation. The daughter’s reaction is like a poison that you definitely want to remedy while at the same time the mother is looking for the right resolution to counteract these unwanted effects.
So what is the antidote in this situation? The antidote to anger and frustration can be love, compassion and patience. Applying the antidote is two-fold. First as the parent in the moment, you must apply the antidote to yourself and approach the situation with love, compassion and patience. It is so difficult to react to a slamming door with compassion, but we must dig deep and do our best to meet our raging child with a sense of calm. Next we must apply the antidote to the child by highlighting those moments where they are acting out of love, compassion and patience. When the parent pays attention and celebrates the behavior they wish to see, then that behavior will be repeated. Dr. Shefali goes on to say (page 58) :
“This isn’t as simple as believing that merely focusing on something will change its expression. That isn’t what this strategy is about. Instead, it speaks to how our own energy changes when we focus on behavior we wish to see versus behavior we don’t care for.”
What a simple concept, focus on the behavior we wish to see. I would take it a step further and say celebrate the behavior we wish to see. It is so easy for us to place emphasis on the “bad” behavior, why not place that same emphasis, if not more, on the good?
Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that Dr. Shefali and her books have had a huge influence on who I am as a parent. She has graciously agreed to do a Facebook Live chat for our Balanced Heart Moms group this Wednesday (21st) at 9am PST/12pm EST! She will be live in our group answering your questions, talking about her book and her upcoming Evolve conference in NYC. If you are not a member of the group, click here and I will add you. I hope you will join me so that you can see the power of her teachings first hand. See you Wednesday!
I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.