Going “GAGA”

Andrew Wake Newsletter, Parenting

I’m always looking for new ways to think about or remember ideas that may be helpful when interacting with young people. When emotions are high or behaviours are irritating, it can be so hard to remain cool, calm and connected enough to be helpful to our kids. Expectations and disappointment flood in at times, but if we get caught in the deluge of these thoughts and emotions, we will likely get caught in combative interactions.

When the situation is getting a bit emotionally crazy between you and someone else, perhaps it may be helpful to remember to go “GAGA”.

“G” stands for Grateful, and it is the antidote for disappointment and its associated emotions of frustration and anger. Our children can too easily focus on the disappointment of what they are missing out on, and they forget or are unable to recognise what they have. But we too can fall into the same trap, only seeing what is going wrong, and not what is going right. Taking a grateful approach can help us to be even handed in the face of frustrating disappointment. And us modelling gratefulness is a powerful way of showing our children how to get over things that don’t totally go their way. And grateful people are so much more attractive than disappointed people.

“A” stands for acceptance, and this is the antidote for the unmet expectations that can so quickly result in disappointment. Acceptance is not permission, it is simply a position of “It is what it is”. You can expect your child not to swear, and then get disappointed when they do (“they shouldn’t be swearing”). But then you will likely be putting in place consequences in an annoyed way. Or you can accept that your child swears (“oh well, right now they are still struggling with appropriate language”), yet still put in place consequences. However, in this latter case you are more likely to be doing this in a thoughtful and empathetic way rather than an angry way.

When emotions are getting high, if you can remember to try to be “grateful, accepting, grateful, accepting” (hopefully avoiding the “serenity now!” trap) prior to taking any action, you may find you do not get so caught up in your child’s difficulties, while still firmly putting in place the boundaries that may help them chose more wisely. And if nothing else, you will be modelling accepting and gratefulness.