By Roma Khetarpal
Parenting with Intent—in the Heat of the Moment!
I remember days like this:
It’s 6:30 p.m., and I’ve just walked in the door. My husband is out of town, and I’ve picked up the kids from school 15 minutes early so I could just make it to the doctor’s office in time for their annual physicals at 3:30. I raced to get them to soccer practice by 5 after swinging by the drugstore to pick up the new vitamins that the pediatrician recommended. The day feels like it has lasted a year!
Of course, it was also that time of the month; I was feeling bloated and tired, and I still had to prepare dinner. The kids were playing in the backyard, but I was imagining myself curled up on the sofa watching old repeats of Friends and sipping peppermint tea.
“I’m almost there,” I kept telling myself, as I put the meal together. “I’ll get the kids started on their homework after dinner and just sit for a bit.” Truth be told, it was one of those days where I didn’t really mind that my husband wasn’t at home. I wanted some “me” time. I needed some “me” time.
As if my little slave drivers could hear my thoughts, they started fighting. “Oh no, not today, not again. I wish we hadn’t bought them that basketball hoop,” I couldn’t help thinking. “I’m way too tired for this!”
All of us have had days like these, more often that we’d like to remember. And more often than not, it is on days like this that we react emotionally and end up with a load of guilt!
Here are three quick tips that can help all of us turn down the heat of the moment and flip our emotional breakdowns to emotional breakthroughs!
- Take a 90-second time out.
Take two deep breaths, grab a glass of water, and take 5 sips. The goal is to buy yourself 90 seconds before responding to the kids. Did you know that even an extreme emotion cannot last more than 90 seconds, if we just let it be? Says who? Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a Harvard-trained neuroanatomist, teaches the “ninety-second emotion rule” in her enlightening book, My Stroke of Insight.
She says that it takes less than 90 seconds for an emotion to be triggered, surge chemically through our bloodstream, and then get flushed out. After that, she says, anything we feel is of our own choosing. And, yes, taking two deep breaths, walking over to grab a glass, filling it with water, and taking 5 sips will buy you the 90 seconds you need to let the angry feeling pass through you.
- Check your intent.
Take another deep breath, and ask yourself, “What is my intent at this very moment? Do I want to jump into the emotional cesspool with my kids, or should I hold my own so that I can actually get to the intended R&R “me” plan that I so badly need today?” Be clear about your intent. Hold it in your mind’s eye, and calmly approach your kids.
Says Mallika Chopra in her new book, Living With Intent, “When we consciously set an intent, we put in motion a process to make it happen.” As parents, we are constantly on an emotional roller coaster with our kids. Using the two tools above is a quick easy way to make something positive happen. It is a simple way to hit the reset button so that you can align your actions with your underlying intent—even in the heat of the moment.
- Reach out honestly and sincerely.
We all know that honesty is the best policy. So reach out to your kids with honesty and a sincere tone of voice: “I’d like your help today.” Or “I am tired and don’t feel well. Can Mommy depend on you for a little love today?”
Never underestimate your children! They are naturally compassionate and loving. When we are inclusive and reach out to them for help—kindly and sincerely—it is in their nature to respond.
That exhausting day, I reached out to my 11 year-old daughter, and I’ll never forget how she took over—helping her brother with his homework, setting the table, loading the dishwasher after dinner. I even got a shoulder massage from my 9-year-old son! It was a lot easier than I thought.
All I had to do was to keep calm, remind myself of my intent, and be inclusive with honesty and sincerity.
Between intent and action lies choice, and the hardest thing to do is choose right when our brains are on burnout or when we are physically exhausted or emotionally charged. This is precisely why we all need tools like those above to help us match our intent with our action.
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