States of Mind- Moods

Let’s set the scene: You come home from a hard day at work. You’re tired. You’re cranky. You’re snappy. You walk in the door and see that once again your child has dropped her books, jacket, boots, and everything else she owns right in front of the door.

You grumble to yourself, “This child has learned nothing! She’s doing it to me again. I’m totally incapable of teaching her responsibility!”

You march upstairs and find her in her room and you yell, “How many times do I have to tell you to get this crap out of here?” She yaps back and makes another excuse.

Scenario 2: The next morning, you wake up calm and relaxed and in a good mood. You walk downstairs and notice that your daughter has again left her stuff in the hallway. This time you calmly approach her and cheerfully say, “Hey, Lisa, how about moving your stuff?” She replies, “OK mom, sorry”, and picks it up with a smile.

Same books, same coat, same hallway. Different moods, different view, different outcomes.

Moods Affect Action

Our ability to be effective and successful as parents has more to do with our state of mind than whether we know a bunch of parenting techniques.

When we are upset or in low moods we tend to forget any parenting techniques we may have learned or know. During these times, even if we had the presence of mind to use a technique, it wouldn’t come out right because a bad feeling seeps through and negates its usefulness- because kids react more to the feeling.

In a good mood, when spirits are high, at those times the parent’s mood elevates the feeling and communication and overrides any need for ‘techniques’. But more than techniques, parents need an understanding of states of mind and their effect on our parenting at any given time. Children respond better when we deal with them from a responsive, secure frame of mind.

At any given moment every human being is in one of 2 states of mind: A secure, responsive state, or an insecure, reactive state. There are varying degrees, but there is also a line, once crossed, puts us in one state or the other.

In the insecure, reactive state, we tend to act out of fear and insecurity. We seem to have a lot of knee-jerk reactions. We feel threatened.

In the secure, responsive state, we tend to act out of security and wisdom that tells us what is best. We keep our bearings.

Moods are part of being human. Each mood is a different level of consciousness through which we see our kids and what they’re up to. We react according to what we see at each of those levels. We react to our kids according to the mood we’re in at the time, because it’s what we see at that time.

Our moods go up and down all the time. When they’re up, we’re relaxed, we’re lighthearted, and we listen more. When they’re down, we see those around us in a negative way and we overreact.

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Different Moods- Different People

We are completely different people in low, reactive moods than we are in high, responsive moods. We are Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

When we act out of one state as opposed to the other, what we say and do is completely different and the results are completely different.

The state of mind we are in when interacting with our kids at any given time will determine how effectively we will deal with them. Since we naturally go in and out of each of these states- up and down in our many moods all day long- and since we can only do so much about being in these moods, the key becomes from which state of mind would we rather talk, act, or make our decisions?

Mood Awareness

It helps to be aware of which state of mind we are in at any given moment. We can tell which state we’re in by our feelings. If we’re feeling great, we’re in the secure, responsive state. If we’re feeling lousy, low, angry, frantic, or fearful, then we’ve slid into an insecure, reactive state.

Noticing how we feel when we’re about to confront or talk to our kids provides our first signal about how to proceed.

In a negative, reactive state, even the smallest problem seems ginormous. It’s difficult to see solutions.

In the secure, responsive state, problems don’t look so overwhelming. We see the way out. Things look hopeful. Problems seem more manageable. In fact, most things that looked like problems before, don’t tend to look so problematic any longer. So which is “reality”? Both or neither?

The best time to deal with our kids, especially when trying to help them learn something, is when we’re both in positive, open, responsive states.

In negative, reactive moods our kids will react by getting a little frightened or insecure and they will resist what we say. In a low state they are automatically closed off to whatever anyone tires to tell them. Their walls go up to protect themselves.

Mood Thinking and Action

What do we do when we’re in a low state and must get something across to our kids?

The best thing to do in an insecure, reactive state is nothing, or as little as you can possibly get away with.

Very few situations are so urgent that they must be dealt with at that moment, although the lower the mood, the more urgent it looks.

How much time will we lose if we wait out a low mood before acting?

If a child is in danger or an emergency ensues, it doesn’t matter what kind of mood we’re in. The danger of the moment must always be dealt with instantly.

But if neither danger or emergency is present, if we’re in a low mood and need to teach something about their behavior, it really helps to stop, bite your tongue, step back for a while and regain perspective for as long as it takes- until we feel a healthier state of mind and wisdom kick in. Then we can deal with it.

Also, if our kids are in a low mood, then they first need to calm down enough to hear what we have to say. They may need to be separated from us or the situation until they regain their bearings.

When spirits have risen on both sides, then we can get together and talk from a more productive perspective.

We are simply wasting our time and energy trying to deal with our children when either of us is in a low state. Plus, the more we do it, the more harm it does to the relationship.

Our thinking is tied to our moods. Low moods equals low-quality thoughts.

Sometimes we may have to say to a child, “I’m too upset to deal with this right now. We’ll talk later”. Or sometimes we may have to say, “It looks like you need to calm down some before we talk about this, so we’ll talk about it later.”

It never helps to breed more insecurity. If we are upset and our child does something that upsets us even more, any action we take at that time will make the child feel more insecure.

Backing off and clearing our heads gets us back on track.


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