React vs. Respond

I considered myself a patient person until I had kids. Kids are one of our biggest blessings but sometimes they can stretch us and try us until we think we’re going to break.

The first time I realized that I wasn’t as patient as I had always thought was when my first child refused to sleep at night and spent hours crying, unable to be consoled. I didn’t foresee the surge of emotions that would come after hours and hours of trying to calm my baby. If I was going to cope with parenthood and give my baby the best care possible I was going to have to learn quickly how to respond rather than react.

Nicole Swarz, a parent coach with a license in family therapy has said, “Reacting means that you meet your child’s emotionally-charged behavior with your own emotionally-charged reply. Responding, on the other hand, gives your child permission to express their big emotions, ideas and feelings without criticism, shame or guilt.” It definitely takes practice to train ourselves to respond to our children. It’s also important to forgive ourselves and to keep trying if we mess up and react in an emotional way.

This principle can also apply to our marriages. We all have buttons that when pushed, cause us to react in a negative way. If we can train ourselves to respond even then, we may just save ourselves a lot of time, energy, and frustration.

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