Monday, December 12, 2011

Consciously Acting

One of my biggest challenges as a parent is to teach my kids about acting consciously.  It's hard because I don't always do it myself and it's also a challenging material to teach.  In schools, kids are taught to follow the rules, which isn't quite the same and acting consciously, although it is a subset of it, to be sure.

Here's an example.  The Captain, age 4, has attachment disorder.  He's simply often dis-regulated.  We have been trying to teach him that he doesn't have to come unglued when things don't go the way he expects or wants them to.  We want him to be able to identify that what is really happening is that he is afraid.  This is difficult for young children; it's hard to pinpoint that feeling when everything in you is screaming, "run!" or "fight!"

Ditto for the teens in the house.  In their case, it's more learning to choose what comes out of their mouths.  Learning to regulate your tone is a bit of a fine point for a teen because you can only do that if you are able to take the quick inventory and notice what is going on inside.  Also learning to recognize that when you say something blatantly untrue or reactive, it is okay to say "Hold on, I didn't really mean to call you that name."  It's challenging and takes maturity of the internal kind.

All of this is made even more challenging by social norms.  These days, people curse or "tell people off" in public settings.  We seem to be revisiting the self-expression era of the 60's and 70's. I am a child of those decades and I am all for self-expression;  that said, it's helpful if  a little self-consciousness goes along with it.

I notice how hard it is for me to self-regulate at times.  When we are getting ready to go somewhere -- always a challenge in a family of seven -- I get stressed out.  I am driven by fear.  Deep down, I'm just a little kid -- afraid of getting left behind.  It's not a logical thing; it occurs on a cellular level.  I notice I have a similar reaction when the house is very noisy, not an infrequent thing with 5 children.  A panic rises in me and if I don't pay attention to it, I am soon going to be yelling for quiet.

What I am striving for in myself and trying to teach the kids, as well, is to take a moment to check in.  I want to take that deep breath (or two, maybe three) and calm myself down a bit. I stop and ask myself, "Am I acting from love or fear?"   It makes a huge difference.

I am putting this on my self-improvement priority list as the holidays approach.  Not only am I  unplugging the Christmas machine, I  am consciously acting to dial down the stress around here too.  Merry Christmas, everyone!

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