You can’t control others – just your reaction

“He won’t play with me,” my daughter complains.

“Honey, you can’t make him play with you.”

Or another time she will come to me in tears.

“Jase called me a baby. I don’t like him anymore.”

“Now, he shouldn’t have done that,” I say, “but you can’t control what your brother or anyone else does. All you can do is control your own actions.”

Both instances reflect a common theme that I often repeat to the kids. You can’t control others. You can only control your own actions.

This is a hard concept for kids to understand. Heck, it is a difficult concept for adults to understand. People are going to say things and do things that aren’t what you want them to say or do.

You rush to tell someone you are pregnant. Instead of the expected “congratulations,” you hear something like. “Oh really? That’s….nice.” or “Again?”

Yep, that wasn’t what you were expecting. You can either choose to let their reaction affect you (whether it is by making you sad, or you challenging them to explain what they meant) or you can let their reaction roll off your back and continue to be happy about your situation. The choice is totally up to you. But how you react, can define how the conversation or even the relationship develops.

If Jase teases Lexie in order to upset her or make her cry, I often tell Lexie the answer is not to give him the response he is looking for. If she just ignored his taunts, he would stop doing them. Or she could tell him that she doesn’t like how he is behaving and won’t play with him. She has many other choices than crying about something he said.

Figuring out that your own actions entail how the conversation is going to go is a hard concept to learn. But lessons abound all over the place for my kids.

A boy on the playground pushes ahead and grabs the last open swing right before Lexie was going to get on it. A classmate makes fun of the shirt Jase is wearing or the way Lexie’s glasses look. I could go on and on. The lesson isn’t that they can’t control these other people. It is all about how they react in these situations.

Does she pull the boy off the swing? Does she call him a name or go tell the playground monitor? Does she shrug it off and find something else to do? Or perhaps she bursts into tears until he gives her the swing.

Does Lexie cry when the person makes fun of her glasses? Does she insult the classmate in an attempt at retribution? Or does she shrug it off and go on her way because she is comfortable with who she is?

It is about teaching my kids that it is their choice on how they handle the situation because they can’t control how others will behave. I can only hope they choose an appropriate reaction to those behaviors.