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Do You React Or Do You Respond To Your Child?

Updated on July 4, 2010

React Or Respond

There is a vast difference between reacting to your child's or teenager's behaviors and responding to them. It is vital that, as a parent, you are aware of the difference between reacting and responding as they can make a world of difference to the relationship you have with your children . A parent is 100% responsible for the relationships they create and have with their offspring and the quality of that relationship boils down to the "respond ability " of the parent. Our survival is dependent upon the relationships that we foster and nurture in our lives. Indeed it is impossible to go through life without relationships as stated in the old adage "No man is an island."

Each relationship that we have is a unique one as no two people see another in exactly the same way. How you as a parent view one child will not be the same as you view another of your children and the children in turn will not have the same view of you as a parent. Neither will a sibling or your spouse view your child the same way that you do. Regardless of how expanded your family may be no two people in that family will view another family member from the same viewpoint. From those viewpoints we either react or respond to each other depending wholly upon our view, our opinions, our precepts of the other.

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

There is a vast difference between you being yourself and their child being themselves as opposed to be created as someone or something. Knowing the difference is of vital importance. It is important that the parent be very aware of what they are seeing when they are viewing their child. For the purpose of conveying my message I will use a mother/daughter relationship and draw upon an experience from my own childhood. Not so that you can cast judgment one way or the other but in order to allow you to see the difference between a projected image and the truth of the situation.

From a very young age my mother, when she was angry, would call me a "little slut". I did not know exactly what that meant at the time but I did know that whatever it was it was not something good and I was quite determined not to be one of those slut things. This one word was to determine the course of my relationship with my mother and in fact went well beyond my mother and my childhood as I carried it forward with me into my own adult life. I could have spared myself a lot of heartache had I known that my mother had done nothing more than to project a negative self image onto me that I then resisted. A slut has numerous traits none of which are particularly admirable so that little word carried with it a lot of whallup! The projected images plus my own resistances to those images set up a ridge between my mother and I that grossly effected and distorted our relationship. My mother was not seeing me and I was very busy trying to prove that I was not the thing that I was being accused of being. Snowball's chance in hell comes to mind as the more I resisted it and attempted to prove otherwise the worse it got - the proverbial tar baby. I began to project equally negative images back onto my mother and I no longer saw her only my own images of her. Either one of us could have handled those images and the relationship would have been quite different however, I was a child at the time and had very little means of doing so. This is why I made the statement that the relationship between a parent and a child rests 100% with the parent.

The Truth Shall Set You Free!

As I got older, around the age of nineteen, it came to light that for ten years of my childhood my mother had been having an affair. It was during the course of this affair that she frequently accused me of being a "slut" and of course as I got older I came to understand what the word meant which only increased my resistance to it. My fighting the projections translated into my fighting my mother and neither of us even saw the other any longer. As one can imagine by the time I hit my teens the relationship between my mother and I had become a very negative and painful one, for both of us. I moved out on my own at seventeen as my mother got to the point she could barely tolerate having me around. It took some time to come up from under this toxic blob to the point where I could recognize that what my mother had been accusing me of for all those years in reality had nothing to do with me but her own feelings about her own actions. That was step one on the road to freedom. When I realized that it was her viewpoint of herself projected on to me I began to let go of the images but I was still left with the mess I had created in my own life as a result of both going into agreement with her take on me and my resistance to it. It took a number of years and a lot of hard work to dig out from under all that falseness to find me again.

Remember, my story is only relevant to the point I am making and nothing else. It does not speak to the truth of who my mother is nor does it speak to the truth of who I am. It speaks only to who we are not - two identities duking it out over a falsehood. I am sure that by now that as a parent you can appreciate how vital it is that you see your child rather than your own negative "stuff". If you look at your child and see anything else but the miracle of what you brought forward then you are not seeing your child. You may see lazy, lying, swearing, antagonistic, disrespectful, unappreciative, uncooperative, argumentative, sullen or any manner of negative combination thereof. Your child in return will come to see you as angry, bossy, difficult to please, unreasonable, cold, impatient, critical, hateful and loud, etc. You will be left wondering how that little bundle you so celebrated (if you did celebrate it - unfortunately my mum wasn't up for that either) deteriorated into this monster that you barely recognize. Neither of you will know what is going on or how to fix it. But, there is a fix.

Honesty Is The Only Policy!

The fix entails you, as a parent being taking responsibility for both your relationship with your child and your child's relationship with you coupled with being  totally honest with yourself.  To illustrate what I mean I will relate to you an experience that I had as a parent with my own children.  When all three of my children were young as in 11, 8 and 3 I had an appointment to keep and it was necessary that I take all three children along with me.  Getting them ready to get out the door and into the car was a royal battle of epic proportions and ended up with four very upset individuals leaving our home too late to make the appointment on time.  Out of my mouth, over my lips and into the ether about me poured a sermon that mounted until not one of the little people in my car were well and truly reprimanded, quashed and created as irresponsible creatures with no regard for the importance of my keeping my promised appointment.  Looking in my review mirror at the crest fallen results of my tirade I also caught a glimpse of none other than myself.  Who had lolly gagged?  Who had frittered away their time?  Who had not left enough time to get self and three children ready to get out the door?  Who had disregarded the appointment time?  Who had blamed everyone else within earshot of their own short comings?  The face of the perpetrator was staring back at me in the review mirror.  I had projected the entirety of my judgments, short comings, lack of action, lack of responsibility and resulting negative feelings about self square unto the shoulders of three children whose only crime it had been was to mirror back to me what I was in fact culpable of. 

As soon as I recognized that fact, I took ownership of what I had done, took back my negative projected images and confessed them to my children explaining to them that I and not they had been the cause of our being late.  I then listened to them as they each expressed how they had felt and how relieved they were to find that they were not the cause of my upset.  By the time we reached our destination we were late, but happy and laughing.  I made the appropriate apologies to the party whom I had inconvenienced without any excuses and without blaming my children for it.  From that day forward my children made sure when we had an appointment that I was getting ready on time.  And they were much friendlier about it than I had been with them. 

That is but one example of when I caught myself projecting "my stuff" onto my children.  Today they are adults, they have extraordinary relationships with each other and with me.  Upsets amongst them are non existent and upsets between me and one of them only occur when on the very rare occasion that I forget myself .

Up, Up And Away

When you can see your child with rational eyes you will no longer act irrationally and your child will no longer appear irrational to you. When you are no longer viewing your "lazy" child through your reactive, unrealistic, negative projections you will be able to respond to what is actually there and if your child is indeed acting a little lazy regarding their responsibilities you can respond accordingly rather than reacting to it. Your will be able to respond to your child with tolerance and understanding and be able to handle situations that arise in a constructive rather than destructive manner. You can both deal with facts rather than "pictures' and your child's viewpoint of you as a parent will shift from a negative one to a positive one. The child cannot help but notice the change in the parent because the parent has indeed changed! This changes the entire flow of exchanges and therefore upgrades the relationship between parent and child.


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    • prettydarkhorse profile image


      8 years ago from US

      Greta hub and very useful Mam, responsibility is upon is when we have children. thanks, Maita

    • raisingme profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia

      Thank you. What a wonderful acknowledgment!

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 

      8 years ago from TEXAS

      Excellent hub which I shall read in greater depth. It's so in line with what I believe and try to express, though - I had to tell you. And in your reply above this phrase shines forth:

      "Examining our buttons and finding what it is connected to and taking responsibility for it." This is something every human being must to in order to be a fully functioning human being! Bravo! I vote it up and most useful!

    • raisingme profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia

      Thank You. We react to our children when they press our "buttons". No button = no reaction and then we are free to respond. Stepping back allows one to de-access whatever got "pushed" so that one can respond however, the button is still there to be pushed another day. Examining our buttons and finding what it is connected to and taking responsibility for it, getting at cause over it puts us in a place where we don't go the effect of our children or their unwanted behaviors. Behavior is a manifestation and you are correct that it is vital to see the child's point of view before responding to behaviors. Most anything else we bring into our homes come with instruction manuals, unfortunately no such manual for the care, operation and maintenance of a child arrived with said child.

    • kia31 profile image


      8 years ago from Los Angles

      Very good Hubm I think its hard to not ot react to your child but to kick back and see their point views or where they are coming from before you respond.


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