"Choosing love seems to mean swallowing your kid's crap." - Philippe
My parenting mantra is "Choose Love." This reminds me that in any situation where fear is tightening its grip or anger is building toward an explosion,
I can defuse the situation. I may not know what to do or say. I may be scared, or angry. But I always have the choice to turn away from fear or anger,
to open the door and let love in.
can't always pull this off, but when I can, it always transforms the situation. In fact, it can turn things around so completely that it feels miraculous.
Choosing love doesn't mean that you don't set limits: "No throwing sand..... Out of the sandbox." Only that you aspire to be supportive
rather than punitive: "You wish you could play in the sandbox. It was too hard for you to stop throwing sand. We'll try again tomorrow."
But choosing love does mean that you accept the other person with compassion, even when they're falling apart or lashing out. That's why it's common for
parents who begin consciously choosing love to find themselves wondering if they're "taking crap" as Philippe said in the quote above.
And yes, choosing love does mean that we choose to swallow hard and refrain from taking our anger out on our child. But we're not actually swallowing our child's crap.
Instead, we're noticing our own upset, which is making us overreact to our child. Choosing love doesn't mean we "swallow" that pain, which would be
harmful to us. But it does mean that we refuse to take that old baggage and dump it on our child.
How do we know this is old baggage? Because children will often act on their emotions even when it's not in their best interests; they don't have a fully
developed prefrontal cortex. (Sometimes we call that being childish.) But we as adults only stoop to that level when we get triggered. The definition
of getting triggered is that the prefrontal cortex stops bringing reason to the situation because the emotions seize control. In other words, we overreact
with big emotions because of our old unconscious learning.
We know that we can set limits without yelling or threatening. When we over-react, it's because we're triggered. And of course, our child did not install
that trigger. It's been there inside us for a long time. In fact, our child is giving us an opportunity to notice and heal that trigger.
Until we deal with our own suffering, we inevitably take it out on others.
What can we do instead of swallowing that suffering? Just notice it. Sit with it. Breathe into the sensations the emotion causes in your body, and don't
let your mind get sucked into any storyline. Just breathe. Love yourself through it.
This is the hardest thing in the world, sitting with our own pain. But when we allow ourselves to just notice the sensations in our body that signal an
emotion -- without acting on the emotions, without attaching a story to them -- the emotions begin to fade away.
The miracle of this mindful approach is that it works, just by bringing more consciousness to that old pattern. Think of it as shining a light, and
the shadows melt away. Little by little, that old baggage begins to loosen its hold on us and to disappear.
You can see the hard part of choosing love. When we're stuck in big emotions like anger or worry, they take on a life of their own. We feel righteously
entitled to them. In that moment, we don't think we're overreacting.
So it takes courage to make the choice to turn away from those emotions, to turn toward love. Sometimes we worry that our child is "getting away with something."
But all she's getting away with is showing us her own tangled emotions, her own pain. By listening and accepting her exactly as she is, we give her
a chance to face that pain and work through it. So she doesn't have to carry it with her into adulthood.
Sure, we talk with the child about appropriate behavior -- in other words, not taking their emotions out on others --once everyone calms down. But we start
by modeling it, right in the face of our child's messy emotions.
The miracle is that when we accept our child's emotions with compassion, without getting emotional ourselves -- even while limiting behavior -- the emotions
begin to heal and settle. Things become more peaceful. You find yourself living in a home with a lot less drama and a lot more love.
Because when we refuse to visit our own pain on our child, we aren't only choosing love for our child. We're also choosing love for ourselves. We're breaking
the cycle. We're healing.
So next time you get triggered, stop, drop your agenda, and take a deep breath.
Then choose love.
See what kind of miracle you can make.