A required skill as a parent of a toddler is an ability to cycle through diaper changes with minimum fuss. Sometimes, these end up being a joy because your toddler is willing to humor you. But, the real test is how you respond when they decide to fight it. How do you respond when faced with fire?
My natural reaction is to face fire with fire and just insist she gets it done. But, as you can imagine, this doesn’t sit well with her. Besides, as she grows bigger and stronger, it is evident that it isn’t a winning strategy anyway.
The trick with influencing kids is to be adept at distracting them. That doesn’t come naturally to me. So, I frequently find myself starting with the forceful reaction and then changing course. This morning, I managed an abrupt transition from “C’mon – just get this done already” to a song that worked like a charm.
I first came across the quote “when tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the fire department uses water” seven years ago. It is incredibly relevant to me and is one I think about every time I feel I reacted inappropriately to conflict. The challenge with changing your default reactions is that it isn’t easy to “practice” these responses easily. And, without practice, you don’t ever really learn to change that behavior.
But, thanks to these diaper changes, I have an opportunity to work on this every day.
Here’s to getting better.
When we face bumps in the road, we can spend time on reactions – oh crap!,” “why does this happen to me?,” “what will they think?,” “is this really my fault?” – or responses – “what is the creative, constructive, corrective action to be taken here?.”
3 things to know about these modes –
(1) Human nature dictates that we have to spend time in reaction mode first. There is no getting away from it even if we know it is a complete waste of time. It doesn’t help that it feels good to be in this mode for the short term.
(2) Given we have to spend time in reaction mode, the choice we exercise is whether to spend a quick second or many hours (depending on the nature of the problem, we may even lose the ability to respond after some time). We have limited time to deal with any given problem – so, every second wasted in reaction takes away time from our response.
(3) Moving from reaction to response is governed by how quick we move to take responsibility (response-ability). The quicker we’re able to shoulder the responsibility for what happens to us, the more painless the transition. And, this response-ability is among the strongest indicators we have of the strength of a person’s character.
“I wait for you to make a plan so I can make a complete mockery of it and mess it up.” | The Universe
If the universe could talk, I’m certain that would be something it would say. As human beings, we attach ourselves to positive outcomes more often than we should and then waste a lot of energy worrying and cursing when our plans inevitably go awry.
The only way around is to consistently take the opposite stance – be surprised when things go as per plan… because, when you are sitting amidst chaos today having just watched your grand plan disintegrate in the last few hours, you ought to know that all is normal in this world.
No reason for annoyed reactions. Smile, remember the duck – keep calm above water and paddle hard underneath, and carry on.