The post entitled Cultivating Self Regulation left me feeling like I had more to say. Now, those who know me, might be thinking that I always have more to say. True. But, this time, I was unsettled.
It was in the midst of one of those embarrassing, “less than my best – self moments,” that I figured out what needed to be said. Once again, I must sheepishly admit that in dealing with my hormonal,’ preteen daughter I may have “lost my $#@$” one evening. Our day had been a series of small collisions of minds. In my mind, she was being selfish and ultra sensitive and in her mind I was being just plain, MEAN. The storm clouds had been brewing all day and by the time bedtime was within reach her frustration and anger bubbled up from some dark place within and she unleashed the beast of preteen fury!
I wish I could report to my readers that I responded to her outburst with the love and patience of a gentle mother. No. That mother had left our home hours before. The one that was remained sensed a sudden surge of anger, exhaustion and irritation rising to a boiling point. With blood racing from my brain to my extremities I roared into my daughter’s room. Every ounce of emotional control was silenced as I allowed myself to “lose it.”
Thankfully, in a split second of sanity, I heard myself. I was a raving lunatic. And then, it dawned on me. How can I teach self-regulation skills and emotional control to my child if I am out of control?
It’s not that this was some new concept that suddenly came to me. I know that I have to model what I teach and preach. We can know something on an intellectual level, but, we need to live what we know in our own actions, if we want to authentically teach our children and our students.
Once again, it is through my child, that I learn the power of embracing my own vulnerability; my own humanness is a great place to begin leading my child. And so, in the very moment that I heard the high pitch of my “other self,” I knew I had to own it. I stopped, looked my kid in the eye and said out loud, “Wow, I am acting like an ass.” She allowed herself to crack a smile at my foul mouth. I went on to explain that I could hear my own voice and feel my heart race. I didn’t defend myself. I explained that I was feeling exasperated (which is okay) but, I allowed my emotions to take over my brain. She knew how I felt. She asked me what I could have done to stop it. She really wanted to know. And that is when the mother I love to be came back on the scene.
I explained that once I recognized the physical symptoms of anger brewing, I would have been better off to stay in my room. I needed to keep the lion in the cage. I needed to use that time to breath deeply so that oxygen could send blood to my brain to keep my brain thinking positively and productively. Once my thinker shut down, my emotions had a field day! A productive thinking brain sends soothing thoughts and it does not allow ‘stewing in one’s own juice’ of negativity. My thinking brain needed to take control of my emotional brain. She snuggled in and told me that her thinking brain had been silenced too. My daughter needed me to be calm so I could help her to regain her ‘thinker.’
The point of my story – in case I get carried away in my story – is that as parents and educators we need to honestly take our own emotional ‘temperature’ if we want to teach our children how to regulate theirs! Being owning our own emotions and openly sharing how we cope (or want to cope) with our feelings is necessary. We can’t demand controlled behaviour when we are unable to control our own actions! Letting kids hear us talk ourselves through our potential meltdowns will go a long way to making the lesson authentic and life long.
Recognizing our own emotions and owning our responses to those emotions is difficult. It’s not easy to admit when we mess up. But, it’s the only way create an environment where your child is safe to make mistakes and learn from them.
Wishing you a rich journey growing with your children and students,