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Encouragement Article

Take a Pause

Children know how to push boundaries. In fact, it's their job. To explore, learn, and see how far they can go before feeling the yank of the tether (metaphorically of course…lose the leash!). However, while doing this, they also find your buttons. Those words or actions that really get you frustrated. Then, they push them. And push them. And push them. No doubt this can be one of the most frustrating parts of raising miniature human beings. Kids are always going to test the boundaries to see what they can get away with. Kids are curious. And honestly, we want them to be curious. We want them to learn. We want them to find their own mental and physical limits, then push their own boundaries. It's all part of the learning process. This is what we have to remember when we are trying to push through the frustration.

For me, one of the most frustrating parts of raising my oldest son is, he is just like me. He likes to find the line, walk right up to it, and toe across. Depending on my reaction, he will then full step across. All the while, watching me. Eyes locked. Knowing he was already told not to. He loves to challenge the status quo and see how consistent I remain. But how can I be upset with him when that is exactly what I used to do? And still do in some situations. Either way, he keeps me on edge. I feel as though I am constantly getting onto him for not respecting the boundaries or rules we have set. Although consistency is crucial regarding boundaries, each test of the line would get me more and more frustrated which resulted in my actions towards him getting more and more intense. Speaking sternly at first. Then, raising my voice. Then, louder. Then, timeout. Then, a pop on the bottom. I mean, how would you react in those situations? It's natural to intensify when each moment builds on the previous. Yes, it's natural, for your child. But your natural tendency, as the parent, isn't always the right answer.

While increasing the level of punishment may be required, it can easily cross the line in moments of elevated frustration. When it is no longer parenting, but yelling. When it is no longer a spanking, but abuse. The main fact here, YOU are the adult. YOU are the one required to control your emotions. YOU are the one required to control your reactions. YOU are the one required to put measures into place so you don't cross the line. YOU are the one required to de-escalate the situation.

"An escalated adult cannot de-escalate an escalated child." - Mathew Partell

In these moments, take a pause. Walk away for a minute. If the scene has risen to the point where this is required, stepping away for a brief moment will not be cause for it to worsen. Understand yourself enough to know what it is YOU need to do to mentally reset and be able to lead the situation. In Jordan Peterson's book 12 Rules for Life, he talks specifically about this in his chapter regarding parenting: "Parents should understand their own capacity to be harsh, vengeful, arrogant, resentful, angry, and deceitful. . . A parent who is seriously aware of his or her limited tolerance and capacity for misbehavior when provoked can therefore seriously plan a proper disciplinary strategy" (p.142-143). Essentially, don't wait for the situation to escalate in the first place. Know yourself and your own buttons so you can be in control in a situation that would otherwise escalate. But in the event that it does escalate, know when to pause.

Around the time my son was three, my wife would to tell me that he is simply acting exactly like a three-year-old should be acting. As the adult, it is up to you to remain calm or de-escalate yourself before confronting your child. By no means do I get it right every time, but it's about being aware and understanding myself to know when to pause and re-group.

Tell yourself how much you love your child. You may not like your child's actions at the moment, but your love for them doesn't change. Once calm, act.

Be Present. Be Intentional

- Chad

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