The Power of the Pause

Tears streaming down her face, my daughter screamed at me this morning “You’re always bossing me around!”

We were running late to school – a common occurrence – she wouldn’t get in her car seat fast enough and her stupid princess dress was interfering with my ability to buckle the damn thing….

I wanted to yell back, “Yeah? Well you’re too slow and your dress is stupid!” 

I took a moment to consider. I played back a little film of our morning in my head and saw myself barking orders and being snippy.

“You’re right”, I said. “I’m sorry. I do get bossy when I feel rushed.”

She didn’t say anything for a moment. She allowed me to buckle her in and asked for a kleenex.

I tried again, looking her in the eyes this time, “I’m sorry.” 

“You’re welcome” she said. She’s three…this was a peace offering. 

I’ve been trying this new thing: noticing my triggers and choosing a conscious response to them. I hadn’t been aware that my frantic rushing this morning was like a ticking time bomb. When confronted by my daughter’s accusation that I was “bossy”, I initially felt defensive and offended. I wanted to make it her fault. I wanted the stress-release of yelling back. Maybe if I’d checked in with myself earlier in the morning routine, I would have seen the warning signs and slowed myself down. 

I’ve come to realize that when I’m stressed out, exhausted, or irritated, my first reaction to a challenging behavior is almost never a good one (in this case, she wasn’t even being difficult, just a little slow and very truthful). I’m trying to take a moment before I react to think about HOW I want to react. I am certain that if I had reacted with my frustration this morning, the bomb would have detonated. It has happened enough times for me to recognize a pattern. Yelling, blaming, or even discipling in this case, would have only escalated my daughter and I further. We get into these kinds of battles all the time. No one wins.

It’s difficult to pull back from strong emotions and consciously consider a response. But I am seeing such positive results when I do.

A great quote that is helping me to remember this practice of taking a pause is this:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” ~ Viktor E. Frankl 



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