One of my readers (who also happens to write her own terrific blog), shared something early last month that has really stuck with me. It was a Christian leader who said that we’re not responsible for our children’s choices…but we are responsible for our responses to their choices.
It got me thinking about the vast difference between responding and reacting. They are completely different ways of handling a situation. Throughout my years of parenting I’ve had to work really hard and make a conscious effort to become less of a reactor and more of a responder. In other words, I’m still working on it.
Although this is an important issue when dealing with small annoyances—such as spilled milk, messy rooms, squabbles between siblings and broken belongings—it becomes much more relationship-defining when it comes to the bigger stuff.
How we respond to our children’s choices can create a breach in the relationship, sometimes temporary and other times permanent. But it can also create a close bond that stands the test of time.
Don’t worry too much about initial reactions. Tears, cutting remarks and volcanic anger can sometimes happen. Children are pretty forgiving. But it becomes a problem when it’s always your initial reaction and/or it’s extended. It’s okay for those to know that we’re disappointed or upset about their choices…but we also have a responsibility to display grace and to provide guidance.
I can’t imagine how different my relationships with my children would be today if I had continued on the path of being a reactor. Messes, spills and disobedience could nearly put me over the edge. My words dripped with sarcasm or hurtful remarks. Anger spewed out of me faster than you could blink. With some of the choices my children have made as teenagers, I can see how detrimental this would have been to our relationship.
It’s not enough to try harder when it comes to responding versus reacting to our children’s choices. We must come to the realization that it can forever define the relationship we have with our children. Reactions tear down walls…but responses build bridges.
© 2014, Stephanie Romero