Monday, November 17, 2008

Roll with the Punches - be more productive and less stressed!

At 6:30pm last night, my happy, relaxed kid turned into a sobbing, hopeless mess. All it took was a phone call from a friend who had a question about homework. Homework that she'd forgotten. Her reaction was that she couldn't possibly get it done. Hanna went from zero to failure in about 5 seconds!

We sat down together for a reality check. She had 2 1/2 hours before her usual retreat to bed. She had everything she needed to do the work and she knew what to do. Finally, turning the assignment in late would result in just a 5 point reduction in her score- and it would be her first offense.  The meltdown resulted from the simple fact that it was unexpected. We'd just come home from a fun day and she wanted to relax. In that moment, when her plans were disrupted, she felt completely out of control.

OK- parental confession, it's all my fault! In an attempt to avoid that kind of anxiety, I've been a little too hung up on planning ahead. I've been so successful at avoiding suprises that Hanna has no experience in how to deal with them. In fact, MY first reaction was annoyance, because she'd said she'd finished her homework. But isn't knowing how to handle yourself when faced with unexpected events even more important than being an expert at preventing them?  Hanna & I need to exercise our "roll with the punches" muscles.

Roll with the punches is defined as "to adjust to difficult events as they happen". The term is based on boxing, from the literal meaning roll with the punches, to step back or to one side as you are being hit, so that you don't receive the full force of the attack. Sounds like a good idea to me.

Here are three questions that will help you roll with the punches:
  1. What is true about the situation?
  2. What's the worst thing that can happen? 
  3. What does it make sense to do? What will serve me best?
After walking through the questions, take a deep breath and relax. Changing the past isn't an option. What's important is how you respond in the moment. Consider putting your pajamas on, it worked for Hanna!

Emotional flexibility and the ability to "roll with the punches" is a gift I'm going to work hard to give my daughter. How about you? Would you be more productive if you had more control over how you react? Here's the good news - you already do.