When I was teaching special needs students, I kept a small paper on the wall above the phone in my classroom in the event there was a call from a parent who was irritated. It was there to help me stay level headed and keep from reacting defensively. I wanted to respond well and understand the real problem.
In response to aggravation or anger I listened calmly, and asked simply the question on this paper, “What is your fear?”
Parents can be overwhelmed, indignant, or feeling helpless. Quite often strong emotions are driven by fear and an exaggerated state of perception. It is easier to blame someone or something “out there” than to examine the fear driving the complaint.
Will he measure up? Will she be accepted? Is my child enough? If I let my guard down, what will happen? Are they doing everything they can?
Our source of suffering is when we project into the future or the past. There may be a belief that something in the past is going to happen again, or something bad will happen in the future. If we could turn the complaint into a request, we could entertain what counts most. Empowered choices are made in the present.
Perhaps as a parent, you feel:
Like a victim (Something bad is happening because of circumstances that can’t change) Express your fear and what is really bugging you, leaving room for the possibility of positive change.
Righteous indignation (Debating viewpoints, making others wrong to make yourself right) Be honest about your fear and seek to gain insight into broader perspectives.
Entitled (Thinking everything is due you even at the expense of others) Our worthiness can become inflamed by fear. Let your fear be known. Work to align what matters most to you as well as what may be best for your child.
Needy for support (Blaming others if you don’t get it) Express your fear with openness. Behave in a way that invites the connection and cooperation you want. Request the help you need.
What is the experience you want to have and how are you contributing to it? It is natural to have strong emotions in the midst of frustration, yet seldom do emotions or blame help create a solution. Further, they model an ineffective way to solve problems.
A school counselor I met described the bedtime showdown at her own house. I asked her what she imagined was ideal. She described a peaceful, quiet loving time with her children. Then I asked,” How are you participating in and promoting that?” She was stunned by the realization that her own resistant behavior stimulated more of what she didn’t want!
Parents certainly want to advocate for their children in a system that has its limits. Recognize that the “I’ll be happy when” attitude can be fear based. What’s working now, and how can we build on it together? How can we contribute to a solution where everybody wins?