Not twitching – It’s one of my hardest parenting jobs. I am usually able to do this with students, but with my own children, it’s different. Our own children always seem to bring out the extremes – extreme emotions, extreme behaviors, extreme reactions.
Last night my wife and I invited Micah to join us for a dinner outing. Unfortunately, there was a wait at the restaurant, so Micah, being an avid parkour enthusiast, decided to spend the time finding things to jump off. When he returned with a bloody nose, I rightfully twitched, but he assured me he was fine, went to the bathroom, and joined us at the table with no evidence of any injury. A fascinating discussion of his hobby ensued, during which time Micah shared how he was training for bigger, more frightening jumps and challenges. That is when I really had to work to inhibit my instinctively emotional reaction and respond in a more thoughtful, yet still concerned manner. It turned out to be a good discussion.
Although some of my extreme reactions are appropriate, (following the sight of a bloody nose, for example) I believe most are disproportionate to the true level of concern. Dangerous stunts aside, I know I have the bad habit of escalating situations and fueling power struggles with my children due to my heightened reactions to daily issues.
Although I do want Micah to know I’m concerned, I don’t want my behavior to shut down the discussion. Sadly, my record on this is not great. I’m confident my children often think, “Should I tell my dad this, or is he going to freak out?” This is not the audio track I want playing in their heads.
Parents, showing concern is normal, but guard against the habit of extreme reactions. The manner in which you respond or react to your children now has a huge impact on whether or not they will be honest and discuss things with you in the future. And I believe, more often than not, one small thoughtful response is far more powerful than any never-ending emotional tsunami we could possibly release on our children.
This is Micah on one of his parkour adventures earlier this summer during our annual beach vacation.