Do you react and get angry with your child, then feel guilty about it? Learn how to respond with intentional parenting to stay calm.
“You’re mean!” my son yelled at me.
Apparently, he didn’t like that I wanted to apply sunblock on him so we could go to school. He had been reading a book and wanted me to start on his brother first. But even when I suggested I apply the sunblock while he reads, he stomped out of the room.
The thing is, I wasn’t in the mood to deal with it. I felt stressed about work and had my own emotional weight to carry—now I had to deal with this, too?
The most powerful way to respond
Typically, I would’ve reacted by raising my voice, forcing the sunblock on him, or threatening to take the book away unless he listened.
But I’ve since been learned the importance of intentional parenting, and the difference has been amazing.
You see, it’s difficult for us to decide that we want, perhaps need, to grow as parents, to be better. No one wants to admit that they’re flawed or could improve.
If you’re like many parents, you might react to whatever your child does, basing your behavior on what she decides to do.
But with intentional parenting, you’re more aware of your choices and behavior, and the results that become of them. And the best way to do that is to define your intention with these everyday choices you make.
Simply ask yourself: “What is my intention?” How do you want to behave in the best interest of your child?
Your parenting journey defined
Let’s talk about how you might be feeling about parenthood right now. We’ve all felt that overwhelm, where we’re triggered by our kids’ behavior, then feel guilty for reacting. We know we need to change, but feel like we have no control over our behavior.
Here’s the thing: you are not stuck, and you can change how you respond to them.
It won’t happen overnight, of course. But consider this: the gap between where you are now and where you want to be is your parenting journey.
That’s the growth you need to bridge, and you do that through intentional parenting. You stop blaming other people (your kids, your spouse) or circumstances (your job, your finances). You don’t allow yourself to curl up in a ball in defeat.
In fact, these challenging times are exactly when you have the best opportunity to grow. They allow you to change for the better, decision by intentional decision.
How to respond with intentional parenting
I learned these principles from various sources, most notably from author Gary Zukav during his talks with Oprah Winfrey.
And the steps—just two of them—are quite simple, but profound.
When you start to feel angry or defeated, the first step is not to react by yelling or storming off, but to go inside of yourself.
Be aware of how you feel. Don’t even try to put words to it, or talk logic into your head. Be aware of how you feel when you’re triggered. You’re creating a little gap between the impulse that would trigger you to get angry, and the action that you’ll eventually take.
This little gap, this pause, will give you something you never had before: a choice.
Which leads us to our second step: choose what to do next.
This seems so obvious, but take a step back and realize how powerful that truly is. In the past, you never gave yourself that ability to choose, or to make an intention. You reacted automatically, unaware that you can actually decide what to do next.
So, you can either decide to yell and get angry at your child, or you can reach inside for the most compassionate part of you.
That doesn’t mean you turn into the sweetest parent in a nanosecond. Reaching for compassion within can mean pausing and not say anything to her at all, or walking out of the room. Maybe it’s refraining from what you had initially wanted to do—which was yell—to closing your eyes.
But at least you made a better choice, however small it may seem.
How intentional parenting nurtures your awareness
Remember that parenting journey we talked about earlier, the gap between where you are to where you want to be?
The more you choose compassion and make intentional parenting a part of your life, the more you bridge that gap and grow in your journey. You become more aware of all the parts of yourself that don’t stem from compassion, and you’re better able to decide not to act on them.
As I say in my parenting workshop, How to Get Your Child to Listen:
“A response is more intentional. You’re more aware of what triggered you and can pause and see yourself being aware of the trigger. You’ve come prepared with alternatives to yelling and losing your patience. And you can replace these old habits and reactions with new habits and responses.”
That’s why you shouldn’t always see the power struggles or the daily challenges with your child as a nuisance. They’re there to help you grow and become a more compassionate and aware parent.
It can be difficult to be aware of your triggers, or to face the responsibility of making better choices. But this difficulty is still not as painful as experiencing the consequences of what happens when you don’t. Because the more you act out of fear or pain, the more you create more of the same.
After all, no parent has yelled at her child and thought, “Ah, now I feel better.” Acting out of anger, fear, or our egos has never served us well. And living a life unaware that you actually don’t have to suffer is perhaps the worst of it all.
Let’s be clear: you were always making a “choice,” even when you were reacting out of anger toward your child. But back then, you weren’t aware that you were making a choice—you simply thought it happened on its own.
With intentional parenting, you’re now aware that you have a choice, and can be more purposeful about the decisions you make.
Go within yourself, reaching for the nearest place where compassion lies, even if that means not saying anything to her (as opposed to yelling). Then, realize that you actually have a choice, and decide to make one that better aligns with the parent you want to be.
Parenthood is a journey and a process, one that’s taken choice by intentional choice. The best part? The more you choose not to react to your triggers, the less control these triggers will have over you.
Do this over and over, and you’ll begin to draw compassion from within just as quickly as you had once been drawn to feel angry.
When my son bolted out of the room feeling upset, I didn’t suddenly turn chipper and happy, or try to mask the frustration I was feeling. But I paused, chose not to yell, and instead moved on with our morning.
I never did get to apply sunblock on him, but I did drop him off at school and whisper in his ear, “I hope you feel better.”
And I knew that my intention not to yell earlier that morning would help him do so.
Get more tips:
- Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Child
- Unique Ways to Meet the Emotional Needs of Your Child
- 7 Positive Parenting Skills All Moms Need to Have
- What to Do When You Feel Like You’re Failing as a Parent
- 7 Proven Strategies to Handle Bedtime Tantrums
Free resource: Exhausted and feeling guilty from constantly losing your temper with your child? Even if it seems like you’ve tried just about everything, you can stop losing your temper, if you start from the inside out and change from within.
In How to Finally Stop Losing Your Temper, you’ll learn how to reflect on who you’re being, your habits and triggers, and what you can do when you feel that rush of anger rising within you. You’ll also get my newsletters, which parents say they LOVE:
“Thank you for this helpful advice. It came in handy right when I was really needing it. I felt like I was always on my child for her behavior. When I read this article and took the advice there was finally more peace. And I didn’t feel like I had to react to every mistake or accident she made.” -Katie Ganci