We all make up stories in our heads to explain the motivation of others. Maybe our story is that the guy who is driving too slowly in front of us is being a jerk. We start getting hot under the collar and feel increasingly irritated by how inconsiderate he is and how slow he is going.
But here’s a different story: Perhaps this rude driver has just gotten terrible news and is having trouble focusing on the road. If we knew that, we would calm down a little and even wish him well on the way to his destination. When we feel upset, we are much more likely to tell ourselves that the other person is somehow messing with us on purpose
. Then, perhaps not surprisingly, we feel—and act—even more distressed. Maybe we start pounding on the horn or swerve around him dangerously. We make up stories about the motivation of complete strangers to help us make sense of our uncomfortable reactions to them and their actions.
And, of course, perhaps with a greater degree of confidence, we also tell ourselves all kinds of tales about why our beloved kids are driving us nuts. But here’s the thing: It really doesn’t matter how accurate the story is; what’s more important is the way it determines our response. If your story contributes to the escalation of a conflict, you’ve got the wrong one—I promise.
Before you can feel in control during that maddening and recurrent struggle, you will need to pay better attention to yourself and understand your own
story. Instead of asking, as many parents do, “Why does my child behave this way?” how about first considering this question: “Why am I getting so hooked by that behavior?”
Try filling out these worksheets
from Cool, Calm & Connected
to learn more about what kinds of behaviors are most triggering for you and how to know you’ve gotten hooked.