It is probably stated in every parenting magazine, blog, book, thesis, study and hallmark card. It’s up to parents to set the tone and whatever tone you set, your kids will follow your lead. And yet, how often do we as parents set the wrong tone? We let work, laundry, family disputes, traffic, finances, lack of sleep, all of it, provide the basis of the tone we set within our very own home. We establish an environment of stress and anxiety and then wonder why our kids are stressed out or why they react negatively toward each other.
What’s that? Oh … it’s just me?
Ah yes. I forgot; we also then get down on ourselves because everyone else’s home is all Ward and June Cleaver.
I’m still convinced it comes down to awareness. Recognizing that something’s getting under your skin that has allowed you to set the tone at 11 and that adjustments need to be made. Acknowledging that you may be partly responsible for your child’s anxiety is a tough one to soak in. But listen; better to recognize it and fix it than let it grow and fester. I’m telling you it’s amazing to watch your kids respond to a dad who makes a point of staying calm and helping them through a difficult day. That moment when you recognize that your daughter isn’t really freaking out because you’re out of cherry popsicles is epic. And nothing is more rewarding than when she confides in you five minutes after stopping to “listen” that it was actually something someone said to her during recess. Oh but getting angry is SO much easier isn’t it?
We all know what it’s like to start the day off rushing to get the kids to the bus, with one of them freaking out because their homework isn’t finished or they can’t find their other shoe or they hate the clothes they have on and decide as you’re walking out the door to change. We’ve all experienced the stress, the tension and the
shear exhaustion of pulling everyone together to make it on time. And we’ve all pulled out of the school parking lot mad at ourselves for not doing a better job of holding it together.
Let it pass. Acknowledge there will be days like that and move on. At that very moment, stop and consider what you want tomorrow to be like and create a “preset” in your head. It’s hard as hell. But just try to remember, your kids need you, not only to set the tone, but to protect their little egos. To support their little minds. And to teach them how to handle stress and anxiety. You’re their rock. Protect them. Teach them. Again, no one said it’s easy. But as long as you’re aware and can catch yourself; that’s half the battle.
I’m not saying the tone should always be the same. Honestly; for someone who’s lived their entire life wearing their heart on their sleeve, that’s not realistic. However, there are appropriate tones for different emotions. Settings that can teach your kids (and you) the proper way to express disappointment, anger, frustration, joy, happiness, love and peace. As long as respect is the root of any tone; you should be good to go.
So go practice. Yeah – that’s right; practice. Create some presets in your head. Visualize the morning, dinner at the restaurant, shopping. Whatever the situation you’re preparing for, establish an expectation for how you’re going to handle the worse case scenario. What tone will you set? How will you deal with it? Think ahead. Prepare yourself and visualize the end result. Just promise yourself you’re going to do what you can to prevent yourself from becoming tone deaf.