reactions vrs. responses

The Domestic Anarchist here!  posts have been few and far between, dealing with maternal health issues (my mom was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a masectomy a few weeks ago), and some marital bumps (valentines day was a complete fiasco, but we got a do-over the following weekend, hurrah for sushi!), but I’ve still been studying life and parenting as I always do, and noticing things in my interactions with my children.

so.  Reactions vrs. responses.

when our child demonstrates any kind of behavior, we can A. react to it, or B. respond to it.

to refer to my trusty dictionary.com

a reaction is:  “a reverse movement or tendency; an action in a reverse direction or manner”

alternately, a response is defined as “an answer or reply, as in words or in some action.”

we react to situations, and respond to people.   a reaction is instinctive, mechanical, immediate, based on what’s going on with us.  a response is calculated, considered and evaluated, based on what’s going on with the other person.  as examples, I give you two instances from my week.

1.  The Squid, while playing on the floor, got into clean, folded laundry, and pulled out a bunch onto the floor.  I could have

a. reacted to the situation.  I was trying to clean the house, and folding the laundry was one of the few things that had been completed.  “oh my god, what are you doing?!  get out of that!  I can’t get anything done with you getting into everything!”

or.

b. responded to my child.  she is crawling very early, and exploring and learning.  obviously she doesn’t understand the difference between folded laundry or piled laundry, or even the difference between clean and dirty.  “oh, wow, look what you’ve found!  let’s find something else for you to explore.”

in this instance I chose b.  I responded to my child instead of reacting to the situation.  I put away my frustration at least til The Husband got home, and I could vent to him.  I made my child the priority.

responding to babies is much easier than children sometimes, since babies haven’t learned to hide their feelings.  children are already learning different ways to communicate.  The Wizard, when he feels nervous, ashamed or confronted, tends to first try and alleviate things through humor, joking and distraction.  he does realize when things are serious, he just prefers to pretend that they’re not, because it’s less stressful.

2.  I opened The Wizards backpack in the morning and realized he hadn’t done his homework while he’d been with his dad.  my choices:

a. react to the situation.  we didn’t have time do get anything done before the bus came, and I was stressed about all the extra work.  “dude!  this is rediculous.  did you do ANY of it?”

or

b. respond to my child.  “you’ve got extra homework.  let’s think of a way to make it fun so you don’t get frustrated with it.”

this time, sadly, I chose a.  my reaction led to a reaction from him, which was to deflect by acting like it was no big deal.   I reacted by stressing to him the importance of school, and telling him to tell his teacher he’d bring some in the next day.  he deflected by saying “if I remember”.  I took this as being a smart-ass.  and reacted with  “that’s not acceptable!  you’re going to do it if it takes all night.”  at which, he started crying, saying he didn’t want to go to school.  so once again I reacted, this time not to just the discomfort of my sons tears, but the sound of the encroaching bus, which was picking up kids one street over.  so, voila, in an effort to stop the tears, and keep my son from missing school.  “oh, I’m so sorry, it’s not your fault.  don’t worry about it.  if you go to school you can have a big bowl of ice cream when you get home!”  …oh lord.

it’s amazing the things that come out when we’re reacting to circumstance and situation, instead of responding to our kids.  during the day while he was at school, though, I did have an opportunity to think on things.  I went to our local game store, which remarkably has free three-day rentals of certain games, found one that The Wizard would like (which is amazing, and is going to make it on as my first video game review), and made up a sticker chart.  each extra piece of homework, earned him 15 mins of video game time.  I also called his teacher, forewarned her that she had a bit of an emotional crisis entering her classroom, and asked her to not mention homework to him.

so, in closing, just because we react, does not remove our ability to respond.  everyone reacts.  it’s impulsive.  it’s our ability to step back and examine the true issues, and respond to our children, which makes us good parents.

-Domestic Anarchist

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2 comments on “reactions vrs. responses

  1. Danielle Rylander says:

    Laura,
    I am always so encouraged and thoughtful after reading your blog. Thank you for this post. It is so great to be reminded. I find myself sinking into what seems like days at a time of “reacting” to my children before I realize what I’ve been doing and making the oppertunity to turn it around. I really needed to read this today and be reminded. Thanks again!

    • domesticanarchist says:

      encouraging parents is my aim! thanks for letting me know I’m being successful in it. and sometimes, when there’s so much going on it doesn’t seem like there’s time to think and respond. you’re just reacting to everything coming at you as fast as you can. it’s the fact that once you have the chance, you do take a breath, think, and respond. those are the moments we connect with our children, and those are the moments that they’re going to remember.

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