What Do I Want to Get Out of This?

In every situation, and every interaction with others, we can choose how to respond. We may not be aware of our choices while in the middle of the situation, yet we still make a choice every time we respond with anger, compassion, or escape altogether. This choice starts with our internal dialogue.

When we are stuck, lost, or hitting a wall, our internal dialogue determines how and when we get through our rough patch. A very powerful tool for these times is to ask ourselves, in the heat of our frustration or pain, “What do I want to get out of this?”

Most of the time, we aren’t even thinking rationally about what we want. Perhaps we might be thinking about what we don’t want, which is an attempt to run away from a situation, and not deal with it. Rarely, though, do we ask ourselves what we are fighting and feeling so hard for.

When we demand that others (ie. our children) do what we want them to do, what is it that we are really trying to get out of the situation? My guess, is that 9 times out of 10, we’re trying to run away from something we don’t want, and we have no real touch with what we want.

We were at church the other day, and my son was sitting three row ahead of us, right in the front row of the congregation. All of the sudden, he started going at his nose. It went on and on.. then he ate his results… right in front of everyone! I was mortified! I kept trying to think of ways to send him signals to stop. The guy sitting next to him was grossed out. I was grossed out. I was stuck, frustrated, and starting to feel the anger well up inside me – “Just stop!” I thought.

Then, I asked myself, “Why am I so upset about this? What am I trying to get out of making him stop?” The truth was, I was trying to avoid people thinking I was a horrible mother for raising a child who would pick his nose so freely in front of everyone. I was trying to save myself, not him. He obviously didn’t care.

After the service, I told him that he shouldn’t pick his nose in church, and he was embarrassed. I felt horrible. Should I have said anything? I still wonder what my true motivation in that was, and if my saying something made it worse, or better.

In all things, we have choices. And how we choose has an effect on the people around us, and our own lives. If we know what we really want to get out of a situation, we have a powerful tool to make better decisions.

The other scary thing, just as a side note, is that even if we are not aware of our own intentions, they are often very obvious to the people around us by the choices we make. We can say what we intend, but what we do, and what we choose not to do, speaks far more than what we say we want.

Our choices are our power. What do we really want to get out of life, out of relationships, and out of everything that happens to us? That truth drives how we live, and how we homeschool.

Inspired by ZenHabits.

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5 Responses to “What Do I Want to Get Out of This?”

  1. Nathania Johnson Says:

    I think it’s ok to tell your son to not pick his nose in church. But, it is important to realize what you’re inadvertently passing along in the instruction. In other words, are you passing along shame or good manners?

    And it’s ok for him to be a little embarrassed. Kids have to go through those emotions and learn how to handle them – otherwise they’ll have things they’re running from in the future – b/c they never learned how to handle it as a kid.

  2. sunniemom Says:

    I understand your point, Tammy, but way too many emotions live side by side in our parental psyches. I don’t want my kids to pick their nose because it’s gross and embarrassing; but it is also not healthy, and letting a child know that it is OK to get them there boogers out of their nose in private with a tissue is perfectly fine, regardless of your inner motivation.

    IMO the real biggie is when kids are being kids- loud, rambunctious, energetic- and another adult is uncomfortable with their behavior. Many parents would tell the kids to pipe down- but are they doing somethingwrong? No, they aren’t, so I would be one of those parents that would rather watch the other adult deal with the decibel level than reprimand children for perfectly normal and healthy behavior.

    I also think of this as when you have walked around all day with spinach in your teeth or a button unbuttoned, and no one told you. What was their motivation for letting you look like a doofus? Sometimes telling your child that their behavior is not appropriate, in spite of the momentary discomfort you feel at pointing it out, is more beneficial to them and saves them embarrassment later on.

  3. Laura :) Says:

    “Our choices are our power. What do we really want to get out of life, out of relationships, and out of everything that happens to us? That truth drives how we live, and how we homeschool.”

    Thought provoking as always! This quote above was so timely as my 13yo dd and I had a conversation this morning about life and how we have to make decisions all the time, like forks in the road, and how those decisions effect us down the line…positively and negatively. We talked about how we have to consciously make choices sometimes that are uncomfortable for us but will, in the end, be profitable. We were talking about friendships and problems and stuff like that.

    As for picking our noses in the front row at church….I’m sure we’d all like the heads up on that one if we didn’t know the social rules! 🙂 When kids get to the age when they become aware of what is ‘acceptable’ to others I think it’s good to let them know….I’d rather thell them myself than have some other kid say “eeeewwwww!! that’s gross!!!” and embarass them…then I’d feel guilty that I didn’t tell them myself…..guilt….leftover from my catholic days!! 🙂

  4. Becky Says:

    Thanks for this post Tammy. I think about this issue a lot. I can really relate to the struggle of what other adults think and what is ultimately best for our kids. I actually think that if we take the “musts” out of the equation (one must never pick their nose in public) it becomes easier to see how we can act (or not) in our children’s best interest. I have had the nose picking talk many times in the past, and the fact is, some kids just don’t care. What I have learned, however, is that it bothers me, so I’m the one who needs to do something about it for myself.

    Rather than shame or scold, I now silently hand my son a handkerchief and walk away. I don’t think most kids need to be told what’s socially acceptable. I’ve found that generally, kids are far more observant than most adults, and simply don’t have the same need to please others at all costs.

  5. tobeme Says:

    Tammy,
    Understanding our intentions and the power or our intentions is key to developing our awareness. You showed great awareness in a very uncomfortable moment with your son. Because of your awareness you were able to better understand you motivation and you were able to wait to provide direction to your son. Thanks for sharing, you have given me something to think about today.


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