What does this mean? 10% of what makes up our day is the stuff that just happens. We cannot stop the bumped milk carton from spilling, the car from breaking down or the client from arriving late, even if they cause you to be late which throws our whole schedule off. We have no control over this 10%. The other 90% is different. You determine the other 90%!
How? By your reaction. You cannot control a red light, or another persons behavior, but you can control your reaction. Don’t let people fool you, YOU can control how you react!
Sometimes as parents we hold the unreasonable expectation that we can (or should be able to) control our child’s behavior. And that creates a hot sticky mess for everybody. Not only are we setting ourselves up for unnecessary frustration, we’re setting up our kids for the same frustration.
Consider the number of times in a week you find yourself irritated or inconvenienced by your child. Do you find your thoughts moving in the direction of criticizing their carelessness, or thoughtlessness, only to find yourself even more stressed and angry? Have you noticed that when you let that take hold, it sends your day into a downward spiral? And if you respond to the irritation by harshly scolding your child do you notice they join you in that downward spiral?
I trust I’m not the only one who has had a weak moment or two where my reaction set a tone that was less than desirable. Let me just say that when I’m clear and mindful that the only behavior I can control is my own, the day holds far less stress!
A couple of months ago I was hanging out with my favorite 6 and 8 year old kids. It was a delightfully hot summer day and we had the wading pool full of water in the back yard. The six year old went into the house to use the bathroom, which has a window opening onto the back yard. I was sitting on the deck tossing water balloons at the giggling 8 year old who was in the pool artfully dodging them when I heard a *thump* and a CRASH followed by screams coming from in the house.
A heartbeat later I’m kneeling on the bathroom floor looking for wounds while I try to comfort a little girl, toilet paper hanger off the wall and her crying her eyes out… hard!
“Where are you hurt, honey?!?”
“Did you hit your head? Where are you hurt? Elbows? Knees?” I couldn’t see any obvious injuries.
*More sobs*… harder now
I took a deep breath to calm my pounding heart and voice. Put my arms around her while reassuring her with ‘I love you’s’ and again asking, “Please tell me where you’re hurt”
As she starts calming, she wiped some tears away and said… “I’m not hurt. I just thought you were going to be mad at me”
The tears start flowing again, calmer this time but through the ‘sup sups’ she acknowledges that’s exactly what she did. (Check out that picture of my bathroom wall and you’ll understand the temptation :-))
While I talked with her and helped her get back on her feet I couldn’t help but feel awful that she had felt such stress about the possibility that I might be angry that she burst into such a big crying session. So I decided to ask her about it. I was glad to learn that it wasn’t that she was afraid of me scolding her… it was that she, already at age 6, was scolding herself because she knew she was taking a risk.
In other words, she didn’t need me to point out the consequences of her behavior… she knew up front she was testing something out. She just didn’t like the results.
So we talked about how life is full of experimenting and how we don’t have to let the results ruin our day… even when things don’t work out quite as we planned. The 8 year old joined us in the conversation which was not only filled with relief, but wonder.
I frequently find myself wondering if our conversation that day might have stayed with them and will help guide them into remembering the 90/10 secret for themselves.
You really do not have control over about 10% of what happens, but the other 90% is totally your choice. A five second reaction can make or break your day… and you get to choose which it will be. So meet life boldly, experiment, get messy, make mistakes and be willing to fall down… and don’t lose sleep over it.