How Can We Stay Calm When Our Children Don’t Listen To Us?

Kerze im Rosenblättermeer

“To conquer oneself is a greater task than conquering others”- Buddha 

Last year, my daughter came down with a sore throat and cold, 
but she really pushed herself to keep going to school. She kept pushing 
until one morning I forbade her to go to school and took her to the 
doctor. All that pushing of hers had resulted in a case of bronchitis. 
In my mind I decided that she had gotten bronchitis because she was 
rundown from staying up late doing homework and it therefore followed that this would need to stop.

So that night I put my almost 
fourteen-year-old daughter with bronchitis to bed at 8 pm. She was very angry about the early bedtime and sat on the floor and refused to 
get into bed. She came out of her room at least 15 times during the 
evening and the anger in me escalated. I took away her electronics but 
it did not seem to make a difference. I had made the decision that she 
needed more sleep and I had put my foot down. Yet three hours later I 
was still dealing with her defiance.

At this point in the evening, around 11pm, I temporarily lost my mind. 
I screamed at the top of my lungs, insisting that she go to sleep. But 
no matter what I did or said, at midnight I could still hear her moving 
around and not sleeping. As I lay in bed that night, I realized why I 
had lost control of my emotions. I saw that I had bought into my own 
linear story that she must go to sleep at 8pm for her well-being and 
that every moment she was awake was terrible and would lead to more 
illness. In hindsight I saw that I was parenting without Maybe.

Of course there are imperative moments when our kids must listen to us, 
like taking a particular medicine if they are sick or mandatory safety 
provisions during certain activities. Yet much of what we believe is 
”imperative” is a story that we are writing in our minds making us believe that there is only one way for our children to be safe and okay.  In reality, most of the time there 
is some wiggle room in our mandate and our children will still be fine. I am 
not saying we should always give them wiggle room, but if it happens 
and they take it, often it still works out.

For me, however, it is not just the wiggle room that we give our children that concerns me, but also how I acted and felt when my daughter didn’t listen to me. Yet, when I started to say “Maybe everything is okay” in my mind, I gained the perspective that I had lost in the heat of the drama. I still wished she had gone to sleep 
earlier, but I recognized it was not the end of the world. Just 
allowing the thought of Maybe to play in my mind lets me pull away from the INTENSITY of 
the parenting moment when it seems like things must be one way.

The next morning my approach had softened and we were able to talk with 
less anger and frustration. Because of what had happened the night 
before, would it take longer for her to get better? Maybe it would, but 
she would still get better over time. In retrospect, would I still have 
taken away her electronics? Absolutely.  But I would have remained calm and been able to communicate with her for an acceptable resolution. And 
Maybe if I had communicated better she would have fallen asleep at 10 
pm instead of midnight!

So today, as you face your screaming child who won’t put on her coat or 
his socks or won’t go to sleep or do their homework or even your defiant teenager who broke a curfew, remember Maybe.  Pause and 
Breathe and think Maybe everything will be okay.  It will help you remember parenting is a long road and our child’s well-being generally does
 not come down to one moment.

Let Maybe lighten your heart and bring some softness to the situation.  It will also help you communicate with your child and open all of you to other possible solutions to what you are facing. Who knows, Maybe it will make all the difference!