I move fast.
I talk fast.
I type fast.
I decide fast.
And I drink coffee really, really fast.
I don’t like loops that stay open.
I don’t like for feelings and tempers to dangle like uneven threads from a hem.
If you want an absolute picture of how it feels to be me in the world, check out this clip from Zootopia. Officer Judy Hopps would be my spirit animal.
So when one of my kids presents with a behavior issue or bad attitude or dilemma or is in need of help with a decision, my inner Officer Judy Hopps wants to jump in and get the thing resolved as quickly as possible so we can get back to peace.
Whatever peace looks like around this crazy supersized household.
There are times that that drive to resolve is actually reactive.
What do I mean by that?
Sometimes wise counsel or a sound path takes some percolating.
And because I’m naturally decisive and fast-moving, that percolating process can feel like avoidance or uncertainty. Or procrastination.
A reactive parenting decision is one that comes in the heat of the moment, a desire to finish the thing and move on, a drive to gain a footing and keep marching. It can feel practical and empowering, but it runs the risk of being driven from fear, irritation, or convenience.
A responsive decision takes a breath. Takes a look at the bigger objective. Considers the broader landscape and leaves room for emotions to simmer down. But don’t miss this point: a responsive parenting decision does circle back and complete what needs to be done.
My reactive parenting can look like this: I have a kid who manages to get on my last good nerve and once again commits an act in word or deed that we’ve wrestled through before. I’m tired, exasperated, and might have a sprinkling of hormones on top. And in that reactive place, to deal and deal now, I issue some genius edict like a two-week grounding period or confiscation of electronics with a timeline of something like ‘forever and ever.’
Something super maintainable like that.
But in my reactiveness, I haven’t thought through the camping trip that coming up in the two-week grounding window. Or that placement test that is going to require access to electronics.
Which busts that ‘forever and ever’ timeline.
In my rush to resolve, I’ve allowed reaction to trump true resolution. And the irony is, that in my desire to wrap the thing up, it’s actually possible I’m opening up the door to more open loops, as I’m just trying to fold the thing back to a clean edge, when what it really needs is some intentional stitching. The very word itself, react, reveals a facet that puts the highest premium on acting out, rather than thinking through.
If I think through a place of responsiveness rather than reaction, it becomes much more clear that I need to get to the ‘why’ of why this behavior has shown up again. I can percolate on how we can better coach. And I can come up with better consequences and goals that are scented with maturity and wisdom, rather than a whiff of frustration and PMS.
So when that Officer Judy Hopps’ foot twitching tic starts in my head, when a decision needs to be made, when the chores have been left undone again, when a kiddo wants an answer and wants it now, I’m learning to quiet that tic.
With a simple question.
Am I reacting to this situation?
Or am I responding?
Am I chasing?
Or am I leading?
Because this parenting gig is one big, important game of Follow the Leader. And a leader responds, not reacts.
So for my fellow Officer Judy Hopps out there, take this tool and put it in your holster. When the line at the parenting counter seems to be moving too slow, when that same old issue raises its head again, when all those items on the to-do list make you want to speed through, ask yourself this:
Am I reacting…or responding?