One of my frequent refrains in both workshops and private peaceful parenting coaching sessions is “Stop talking!” The truth is we parents talk way too much. We launch into long diatribes or lectures without even realizing it and I can promise you this… Your child has shut you out and only hears the sound of the adults from the Charlie Brown cartoons… Your message is lost, they aren’t listening which then triggers us even more. Before you know it, you’ve launched into your standard “You never listen!” lecture. It never ends well, does it?
I am a huge fan of acronyms and find them easy to remember as well as helpful reminders. Like most parents reading this, I also struggle to stop talking. I get paid to talk to people and think I have a lot of valuable things to say - and I do! - but, it’s hard for me to always remember to know my audience and to consider my motives.
Every day, I use WAIT: Why Am I Talking?
(Pro tip: It helps in all of my relationships.)
When we can pause when agitated or doubtful and ask ourselves this question, it’s often clear. In both my own personal parenting journey and with my clients, I see the answer fall into one or more of only three categories:
We are triggered. Something about our child’s behavior or words triggers something deep within us and we start to feel a disproportionate reaction to the event. A trigger is not about our child. They didn’t install that button that got pushed. They are just being a child. We, the parents and adults, are responsible for the trigger. That was installed way before we even had parents and is usually related to our own childhoods. This is our work to do. Come see me and we can dig them through or find a therapist.
It feels like an emergency. Something our child does or says trips that wire in us - our amygdala - which erroneously tricks us into thinking there is a legitimate emergency. An emergency requires immediate action, right? HURRY! HANDLE THIS! SAVE LIVES! But the odds of what your child has said or done actually being an emergency are slim. Settling that immediate reaction is our work to do. Start to mediate and come see me - I would love to teach you more tools to respond rather than react.
We think we have to teach the lesson now! Where do you feel that feeling in your body? It’s in my chest. It feels like lava and man alive, does it want to come out! This feeling is usually accompanied by all sorts of fortune telling “She is going to grow up entitled!” “He has no respect for authority and will end up unemployed!” “They will fail out of school and never graduate from high school!” That urgency we feel is actually a sign to stop talking.
When one of these things things is happening, we have to stop, drop our agenda, and breathe. We are almost certainly about to launch into a lecture and because everyone is dysregulated, this will not end well. No lessons will be learned and our message will be diluted by the fact that we are joining the chaos rather than bringing the calm.
We breathe. We use a mantra. WAIT or This Is Not An Emergency or just Stop Talking! We practice. Just stop yourself. You can stop yourself. We all have impulses do things and we stop ourselves just fine. Think of your public persona vs your private persona. Use those same skills you would use to stop yourself from arguing with your boss or challenging family members to just stop with your child.
Like all things in the family of self-regulation tools, this isn’t an overnight matter. It will take time, perseverance, accountability, and mindfulness. Write down these three questions and post there where you can see them. They can change your life.
Does it need to be said?
Does it need to be said right now?
Does it need to be said right now by me?