It’s a lazy Saturday. One of those rare weekends when you have nothing planned.
Your kids have been parked in front of the TV all morning.
It’s a beautiful day, so you innocently announce, “Alright, guys! Time to turn the TV off and go outside!”
Suddenly, they snap out of their zombie-like state and fire back at you:
“No way! I’m not leaving this couch. You can’t make me!”
“This is the best part of the show! You did that on purpose! You’re so mean!”
Your blood begins to boil.
Your thoughts race a million miles and hour.
“How dare they speak to me like that! I’m the parent! When are they going to learn that when I say something, they need to do it?”
Your response matters. The way you decide to respond in this moment is important.
But before you answer back, let’s pause the scene.
Imagine you’re standing in front of a small pile of sticks. Someone drops a match and the flames immediately engulf the length of the branches.
Now imagine you are holding two cups — one filled with gas and one filled with water.
You know what will happen if you add gas to the fire. The flames will leap and soar, possibly starting new fires around the twigs. And soon, it will be uncontrollable.
But what if you choose the cup filled with water? Can you imagine how quickly you could douse the flame? Can you see the small swirl of smoke and hear the soft hiss as the wood quickly cools?
Those imaginary cups…those are your responses.
You can escalate or suffocate a situation by your response.
The responses from the “cup full of gas” escalate the situation. They fill the relationship with rage, anger, and disconnection.
- needing to have the last word
- taking things away
- sending kids to timeout
- giving extreme consequences.
On the other hand, the “cup filled with water” responses suffocate or extinguish a heated situation. They make it possible to keep the relationship with your kids strong while at the same time being the calm, confident leader your kids need you to be.
- slowing down
- reasonable boundaries
Back to the living room.
The kids are upset. Their words are heated. You feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and hurt.
But, you have a choice. You imagine the flame. You imagine the cups.
You can react or respond.
Explode or pause.
Escalate or extinguish the situation.
Which cup will you choose?