There are plenty of times in life when things don’t go according to plan- sometimes it can be a life threatening situation, but most of the time, thankfully not. I recently made a booking for a taxi- the first time in my life believe it or not! I had to be in the city for an early morning live television interview, so when I was offered a taxi voucher I figured I should give myself the break from struggling through peak hour traffic. So the booking was made the evening prior and I made sure I booked for ten minutes earlier than needed.
Fast forward to the early hours of the next morning and my taxi fails to show! I call the company only to be put through to a call centre attendant who appears to be in an office in another country. Of course, when I enquire as to my taxi’s whereabouts she has no idea where he is- “perhaps he has broken down”, comes her reply. I am now twenty minutes late for leaving. I know the traffic will now be chaotic once we hit the freeway and I’ll now have to drive myself- all because I thought I’d take the less stressful option of booking a taxi!
Now I would LOVE to tell you right here how I gently reassured the call centre lady that all was well, and that the taxi company wasn’t to blame. However I am afraid my reaction wasn’t terrible helpful or courteous, as I furiously explained that this was my first ever experience with this taxi service, how I thought a booking generally meant that the taxi would indeed arrive, how could they not possibly know the whereabouts of my transport and how it would be their fault if I was not sitting in my chair ready for my interview when we went live to air!!
It got me thinking, that as parents, we have numerous opportunities daily, if not hourly to choose our reactions when all doesn’t go according to plan. As I write this, we are on a family getaway for the weekend in our caravan. Just this morning I was reading in bed (a luxury I often don’t get to enjoy) when my children decided to run through the confined space of our van, chasing each other. One push led to another, and before I knew it one child fell on to my bed curtain, ripping it off its ring.
To paint the picture more clearly, my husband LOVES his caravan- he polishes it with a rag and cleans it to perfection! So I could already anticipate his reaction to the torn curtain in his precious vehicle. Whilst the children sat in horror- each accusing the other of causing the problem, I went outside to the BBQ where hubby was cooking breakfast. I gently expressed by view of the importance of how we react as parents, and before he reacted to my news, could he possibly just count to ten Yes, he was angry when he found out about the damage, but he took the time- just a few moments to establish how he was going to choose to react to the children. Teenagers can be notorious for pushing the buttons of their parents (and teachers). Often they may behave in a manner they even they feel is out of control. One of the greatest lessons I learnt about the importance of our reactions occurred several years ago, when I received a late night email from two of my students through my business email address. In their email, the two girls were explaining, quite politely I might add- how they were having some issues with my classroom management- particularly relating to them! They signed off by reinforcing that they admired me as a teacher and did not intend to offend me.
Now, my initial reaction was, I admit, a mixture of anger and hurt- however after a few minuted of careful consideration I realised it had taken a great deal of courage for these girls to actually put their thoughts and feelings into an email to a teacher, rather than the alternative which was to gossip and moan about their feelings. So I responded accordingly, and thanked them both for demonstrating maturity and the courteous way in which they wrote. I let them know that I would catch up with them the next day for a chat.
After our meeting the following day, where we listened to each other’s point of view- the girls took me aside and told me how thankful they were for my reaction to their email and that they hadn’t expected that from a teacher. They thought that most adults would react angrily to a teenager even daring to question them. They were so appreciative that they were responded to with grace.
Making it Practical
- When something happens to push your buttons, try taking a deep breath and count to ten (or fifty if needed!)
- Try not to react out of anger or frustration- it can only seek to inflame the situation and make it worse
- If you are unsure how to react to the situation, take time out and seek out a friend or family member to ask for advice and help
- Stop and think. How would you like this situation to be resolved? What would be your desired outcome?
- Don’t make threats or deal out punishments in the heat of battle or rage!
- Choose your battles. Is this one worth the energy?
We cannot always change our circumstances, but we ALWAYS have the choice as to how we will REACT in any given situation. Next time I order a taxi, I’ll be prepared to respond with Grace if and when it doesn’t show!
Take time to enjoy the parenting journey! Sharon