11 June, 2018

The 10 Second Rule

(Image downloaded via Google)

Parents do love their kids.  So do we but, as a parent, I do admit to the fact that there have been countless times (and there still are) when kids can be absolutely stubborn, as obstinate and intractable as mules and in the process, so completely overwhelming that they overpower our sense of reason and logic and completely annihilate our capacity to be reasonable about their stubbornness.  
To cut a long story short, there are innumerable times when kids can have parents walking up the wall and perching on the ceiling, with the said parents wanting to pull their own hair out right from the roots – one by one !
The 10 second rule
The one thing I realized along the way was that as much as I would try not to let them get to me, they eventually used to, very successfully.  When that did happen, the best solution invariably was to ‘take a minute to myself’, ‘count to ten’ and after the 10 second count, if I still felt like screaming at them, I could and I would.  
That was when I realized that that was all it took.  10 seconds to get out of that ‘bull that sees red all around’ frame of mind and a minute more to calm myself down, get myself together and gather my thoughts so that I wouldn’t get angry beyond measure and say or do something that I would regret once my head was clear. 
Invariably, in fact the answer is never, after that 10 second astoundingly thought clearing, calming break, have I had to scream at either Macadamia or Pecan through their younger years.  The same Macadamia is a young adult now and Pecan, a teen and they still do drive me crazy sometimes but the 10 second rule has proved golden and time tested.
Walk away – Clear your head
Sometimes, if the situation so demands, walking away from our kids just for a wee bit is ok.  This is especially true of really intense, tense, high pressure situations where it is our saneness, our rationality and lucidity that hangs in the balance.
I do admit - walking away isn’t an easy thing to do.  I remember a standoff with Pecan once which was particularly bad – over a scoop of ice cream, of all the things.  It escalated so quickly that I did not have time to gather my thoughts.  It left me livid, hyperventilating and fuming. Despite me being visibly upset and angry, he wouldn’t budge – wouldn’t give a millimeter, let alone an inch.
I just pictured myself in the eye of my mind and say myself how he was probably seeing me – hands on my hips, eyes flashing anger, absolutely livid, my ears and face flaming red, looking like Mt.Etna about to erupt.  That image scared me and in that instant of sudden epiphany and clarity (it does happen to me just sometimes), I realized if that image could scare me, how terrifying must it be for a young child ?
I did exactly what the title says – I put the ice cream scoop in the sink, the ice cream tub in the freezer and I walked away from him. I felt immensely guilty – make no mistake on that count.  But that menacing parent I’d seen a vision of, in the eye of my mind, was not the kind of parent I wanted to be.  I remember telling him that I was way too angry for my own good and his but that I did love him and that I needed a couple of minutes to calm myself down.  I told him I was going to be in the bedroom for a bit.
And I walked away.
He started wailing right about then but that little bit of physical distance was all it took for me to calm down and de-stress. That little distance enabled me to listen to my own inner voice for a bit.  It facilitated wiser counsel to prevail by preventing my senses being herded towards illogical, temperamental behaviour which I'd have regretted later.  It enabled me to process my thoughts even though my auditory senses were being assailed by the screeches and screams, without blowing a gasket myself.  
It gave me those precious few seconds in which I could think calmly and figure out my next step.  When I was calmer, I was able to go back and talk to him about how he got upset, how I got upset and how we could remedy the situation.
When kids lose it, or are stubborn – they look at us, as adults, to help them.  Just that they have very funny ways of telling us that they need help !!!
Kids can sense when we’re angry with them, so the more our frustration mounts, the more frenetic and hysterical they can get, the more out-of-control the situation starts to feel, for them too. 
If we take a minute to just stop ourselves and get our heads right, we are also giving them space to calm down enough so that we can try to come to some sort of compromise and understanding. There’s no point trying to reason with a small child (or adult for that matter) who is already worked up, all wound and uptight. They can’t see around their own frustrations. So then, what’s the point in trying to continue?
Walking away does make you feel horrible for a bit, as it could be construed as abandonment but in high pressure situations it is worth taking that one minute to yourself, to organise and channelise your own thought processes.
If I can’t learn to deal with my anger and find proper ways of channelizing the same, how do I expect my kids to learn to do that ?  If we end up having screaming and screeching matches over things, how are they to know that screaming and screeching aren’t always solutions to problems ?
Kids learn more by seeing how we behave, taking a page out of our books when we ourselves deal with high pressure situations. But taking that all important minute to gather your thoughts, if the situation so demands it, does not make you a bad mom or a bad parent.
If your kid is behaving like a pint-sized Energizer Bunny high on amphetamines, unreasonably bouncing off the walls like he/she is absolutely over-the-top crazy right then, as one parent to another, I do think you have every right to step away, calm yourself down, get your thoughts together, if necessary dunk your head in cold water and get your head in the game.
Sometimes, cruel as it may seem to just walk away, doing just that saves both, the parent and the child, a lot of trauma.  Taking a minute to yourself does not make you a bad parent.  It makes you a sensible one for acknowledging that need to mentally gather your thoughts and emotions rather than just plough on like a trooper despite knowing that you are very close, dangerously close to breaking point.
Raising the next generation, dealing with the ups and downs of parenting, just dealing with those little people in general, is really hard most of the time. We’re human too and there’s no shame in acknowledging that fact.  There’s only so much one can take before we ourselves lose it, especially when the wrong buttons keep getting pushed, time and again.  Sometimes those Energizer Bunnies not just push the wrong buttons, they have their fingers pressed down hard on those buttons constantly, like there's no tomorrow !
Again, as far as losing it goes, it is fine to completely lose it too, if the situation so demands but it is much better to lose it in private rather than in front of an already out-of-control kid.
Imagine the scene if you start screaming, jump up and down and punch  pillows, throw things around, tear paper to bits or whatever else it takes for you to vent - in front of the said kid.  They’d be sure then that we’ve indeed lost it and looking at it from a little person’s point of view, a five feet plus adult behaving that way must be incredibly scary from a two feet perspective.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, for it is a mantra I swear by.
Parenting has always been hard work, it still is and will continue to be so, for every single parent anywhere and everywhere in this world.  We sign up for it the moment we take that step towards bringing a new life into this world and with the laughs and the giggles, the squeals and the cuddles, there are also the tears and the pain, the heartbreaks and the strain.  That is reality and it isn’t about to go anywhere in a hurry.
So, dear fellow parents, keep up the good work at rearing and raising the next generation and remember – if the situation so demands it – it is ok to walk away for a bit and count to ten. Parenting is challenging, it is demanding, it is testing, it is grueling and it is way too complicated and emotional a task to expect magical fairies and unicorns to sprinkle fairy dust and work miracle cures in defusing situations.
As parents, we’ve got to do those ourselves.

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