Monday morning was the first day of our local camp. As we got ready in the morning, the difference between the two girls’ outlook for the day couldn’t have been more pronounced: my 10 year-old was making up a joyful song about camp while my 7 year-old was slumped on the floor.
My immediate thought was, “uh-oh.” My youngest has a tendency to freeze when she’s not feeling good and she’d had a bad night the night before. So far, she’d looked for her goggles, and when she couldn’t find them, fallen on the floor in helplessness.
I said to her, “Honey, when I see you on the floor like that I start to get worried that you’re not going to be ready for camp today.” She snarled back.
I could feel my annoyance and anxiety about my day getting more intense. This was not looking good.
I talked to my husband in her earshot, telling him the same thing. He (skillfully!) reflected back to me, “Sounds like you’re feeling really worried. I know. I am too.”
That’s when I remembered and was able to fully implement the magic sauce in conflict moments like this:
De-escalation is like this: imagine two fists coming together. They represent the aggression and heightened emotion from both sides. To de-escalate the situation, we need to take one of those fists away; to let go of our counter-aggression.
Detachment means letting go of the outcome. It’s this great paradox of parenting (and life!) that in order to acquire something, we have to let go of our attachment to having it.
On Monday morning, I practiced detachment this way: I took a moment to consider the outcomes of what was happening. I could yell and threaten, and that would surely escalate the problem and make my daughter even more resistant.
Or I could let go of the outcome. I considered the worst that would happen – I would take her older sister to swim and camp and she would be left at home while my husband Bill worked. Not the plan, but not horrible.
So I let go. I fully accepted the moment and let go of my resistance. I went into the kitchen and put away clean dishes. I encouraged her sister to leave our volatile younger daughter alone. We gave her space.
What did I let go of? You may say that I let go of control, but I have a subtle correction for you on that point:
I let go of the illusion of control.
Now it’s your turn.
Are you able to practice detachment and de-escalation? I’d love to talk about it over in the comments below.
I’m wishing you a beautiful week, my friend. Thank you so much for reading!
P.S. Each month I send a Lovingkindness Letter and weekly bites of inspiration (that are small enough to be digestible) . Sign up now and get “5 Simple Things You Can Do Today To Be Less Irritable With Your Child.”