Is Overreacting Damaging your Parenting? Here’s How to Fix it.

Overreacting | Is there a cure for catastrophising? How do we remedy those times when we feel we overreact to the slightest concern? | The Parent and Pupil Coach | Ben Jackson | @benjacksoncoach | Ben White 197668

Is there a cure for catastrophising? How do we remedy those times when we feel we overreact to the slightest concern? If you’re an overreacting parent struggling with the anxiety and stress, then you need to follow these easy steps.

Parenting

In some form or other most of us have noticed ourselves responding to a mild worry and amplifying it to a critical level. Life as a new parent can feel horrendously unpredictable and our usual resourcefulness can elude us, making it seem as though we are firefighting rather than coping. This learnt behaviour can make us feel primed to swiftly escalate a small concern into something greater, something more alarming. We can feel in its grip, keeping us from a more useful perspective.

Being able to step back

I was recently reminded while washing up (where most insights seemed to spring from) of the time when there was a concern about my daughter’s eating habits. She wasn’t so much a picky eater but wouldn’t eat too much beyond plain coloured foods. The incongruity to this was that dishes and platefuls of homemade food were normal at dinnertime and her brothers were (and still are) ravenous eaters. Yet she displayed a far more reluctant approach to eating. Bearing in mind that she was all but 5 years old this was unlikely to be related to peer pressure or perceptions of beauty on TV – if this was the case she would surely have resembled either Tinky-winky or Laa-Laa.

Nonetheless there was a real worry and, not wishing to overly draw attention to a problem when there may be none, some medical advise was sort. What came back was heartening and really the point behind this piece.

It was suggested to not look at what she ate day to day, but rather over the week. To not focus on each meal but see what her diet was like over a period of time. Rather than macro worry about her eating habit, take a step back and look at her overall health and what she was eating.

Time to stop looking at the cracks in the street

Catastrophising | The Parent and Pupil Coach | Ben Jackson | @benjacksoncoach | Jordan Whitt 89812

We can get overly anxious and concerned about these worries that we lose the bigger picture. It’s as if we are walking down the street only looking at the splits and cracks immediately in front of us.  And the more we stare at the street, we can get a little obsessive about the cracks to the point that you fear looking up.

I know that I have to stop myself from boarding the “What if this means that” train and check in to make sure that I’m not giving this more oxygen than it deserves.

We can often get caught up in the day to day behaviours of our children and prone to amplifying and, at times, catastrophising, them. I know that I have to stop myself from boarding the “What if this means that” train and check in to make sure that I’m not giving this more oxygen than it deserves. In addition that I’m not steamrolling in to something that is a useful learning for my child (see Help Your Child Resolve Social Problems and Conflicts and Help Your Child Understand the Consequences of their Actions for more on this).

Our children are so deeply precious to us and we take such concern for their wellbeing we can often forget that a little distance, a little perspective, can go a long way to calm our concerns and allay our fears.

Break the cycle of thinking 

If you feel that you get yourself in this mindset, here are some suggestions that can help break that thinking and give you some distance. You might also enjoy reading Overthinking: How to Defeat it and Get Some Freedom if you feel that you also need some ideas on how to some of that negative self-talk we can often find ourselves in.

Get to the core of what’s lurking behind fears and, with a little persistence, you may be able to uncover something that you can take some tangible action over.

These questions will also help you get to the heart of what is bothering you. They can get to the core of what’s lurking behind the fears. And, with a little persistence, you may be able to uncover something that you can quiet easily resolve.

Cure Your Catastrophising | How to stop damaging your parenting quickly! | The Parent and Pupil Coach | @benjacksoncoachThe end of catastrophising

Start by asking: What is it that I’m presuming will happen?

then: In order for this to be true, what do I have to believe?

You’ve noticed that you believe ‘x’ to be true. At this point you can then challenge that belief: Based on my experience, is it reasonable to hang on to these beliefs?

Your answers will put you in a better position to improve how you manage and communicate those feelings.

 

Putting it in to practise. 

Let’s look at an example.

The Scenario & The Presumption 

Your child runs down the street. You shout, “Don’t run!”.

What is it that you’re presuming will happen?

That they may run into the road and get hit by a car.

What Needs to be True

It’s reasonable to assume then that there are some initial points that you’re believing to be true:

  • Your child always runs into the road without taking precautions
  • There are always cars that are never driving safely
  • That all cars that are being driven will hit your child

I’ve highlighted the key words in these phrases so you can see clearly how the language is influencing the behaviour.

How Reasonable is This?

Applying then the last question, is it reasonable to hold these beliefs?

From your experience, from your knowledge, how reasonable is it to hold these truths? Here you consider what you ‘know’ not what you fear. This allows you to draw on your legitimate experience to help form a new response. These questions will give you the choice to deescalate that fear so you can handle it in a different, more useful way.

Last words

Catastrophising | Is there a cure for catastrophising? How do we remedy those times when we feel we overreact to the slightest concern? If you’re an overreacting parent struggling with the anxiety and stress, then you need to follow these easy steps.The Parent and Pupil Coach | Ben Jackson | @benjackson

Taking the example above, perhaps the child can run but told to wait to cross the road. Or, to explain how best to cross the street safely. There are a myriad of ways this situation is managed. All of which helps to reduce anxiety and better educate the child, who, after all, is the one whom we want to protect. You may enjoy reading  5 Top Tips for Persuading Kids to do What YOU Want or How to Win/Win Arguments for suggestions on how to improve communicating with your child.

By all means, when there are prevalent concerns, waiting may not be the appropriate response, so choose diligently and wisely – is there a reason to be worried? Or in fact do I need to breath and take a step back?


 

Comment

Let me know in the comments what has worked for you. What techniques do you use to reduce that overreaction? And also what hasn’t worked for you?

As ever I love to hear your thoughts and ideas. Please feel free to share this with anyone if you think they might enjoy or benefit from this article.

 

12 Comments

  1. I am completely guilty of this! And your recommendation makes so much sense.
    I recently over reacted to my daughter running around the cafeteria at her school with friends, assuming she would fall… cause all kids fall when they run? Great post.

    • That’s a perfect example and thank you so much for sharing. It just takes a little practice to break out of that loop of thinking. And so, equally, we can forgive ourselves when we don’t get it quite right. We can always look back and work out what we’d like to do next time. I’ve a vlog that’ll upload in the next day or so where I explore this a bit further. In it I also discuss what impact our overreacting has on our child in particular their confidence.

    • Thank you for your comment and taking the time to read my post. Yes – gaining that vantage point on a situation is super helpful to making the best decision possible. Though sometimes it’s only after the event that we can reflect about our choices. But that’s still very valuable in exploring what triggered those feelings so that next time you can apply them 🙂

  2. I agree! It can be really easy to overreact as parents. The truth is that we all just want whats best for our children. We get so caught up in the moment that we miss the big picture. This causes us to miss out on valuable opportunities to teach and even learn from our kids! Of course, some get so caught up in the big picture that they miss precious moments…its a fine balance that has to be made…ah the joys of parenting =)

    • Very true and as I mentioned in the piece I think this can stem from that new parent phase where everything is new and there’s a lot of uncertainty. This uncertainty can be filled with worry and fears which take time to grow out as our children grow up. I think a powerful point that I didn’t get to discuss here is the impact that overreacting has on the child. What does a child believe about their own judgment? How does it impact their confidence? And I think those two questions are part of the big picture too. Thanks so much for your comment, it really means a lot 🙂

  3. Hi Ben, what a great post. I am definitely one that catastrophises a situation as well. I also have to step back sometimes, take a deep breath and try to think rationally so as not to overreact. Like you mention, I am quick to think of the worst case scenario, “my son is crying and will not stop so it must be…” I usually do through several things (annoying my husband to no end I am sure) before calming down and thinking rationally. It has taken me awhile to not rush in immediately to try and fix things, as this hinders my son in learning to soothe himself. These tips are ones that I will keep in mind as my son grows.

    • Hi Jessica, Thank you! That means a lot to me 🙂 I think you’re so right and you touch on something really important: “not [to] rush in immediately to try and fix things, as this hinders my son in learning”. I think this actually a great convincer in changing that overreacting behaviour. Because what is it we are instilling in the child? An overreacting parent will not only put some fear into the child, but also it undermines the child’s ability to judge wether something is safe or not. We impose our fear and this can often lead the child to having doubts about their own abilities and confidence. What’s great about what you’re doing is that you’re aware of it and you’re making the necessary changes to your behaviour.

      What you may have found is that you have now become so tuned in to these situations with other parents, or just amongst friends, that you automatically wonder what is their worst case scenario. 🙂

  4. This is a thinker! My daughter is only 4 months, but I could imagine myself saying something of things in this post once she is older! But who doesn’t panic in the moment and shout “Don’t run!”?

    • That is so true, Diana, and I can’t imagine a parent who hasn’t said that. What you might find useful is to begin to practice using more positive directed language. For example, change “Don’t run” to “Stop”, “Wait”. “Can you slow down?”. The reason I suggest this is because children don’t really process the ‘not’ in sentences and will respond to the word ‘run’. To try to remove the negation, the ‘not’ – not only is it a direct instruction it’s also more congruent with what you want to achieve.

      Since your daughter isn’t at that stage yet, have fun trying it out with friends or your partner. Aim to give a positive, clear and direct expression and remove the ‘not’ 🙂

      Thanks so much for reading the piece 🙂

    • Thanks! I hope you might try these suggestions and find ways to react in a different way 🙂 Like most things it just takes practise. It may be simply a good idea to just start to notice when you do it, then at an appropriate time replay it in your head with a different way of reacting to it. Here’s my vlog where I discuss it further 🙂 https://youtu.be/JciDskgIvHU

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