Irritation happens. What to do?
In the moment: we feel a flare up of irritation.
Acknowledging and allowing the emotion, we say to ourself “I feel irritated, and that’s okay.”
We take a moment to focus on our breath, saying the words to ourself: “breathing in, breathing out.” This slows us down, calms our nervous system and restores a sense of control. Placing a hand on our heart adds warmth and safety; letting our exhale be an audible sigh releases tension.
Breathing in, we imagine calm and compassion for ourself, our kids and the situation, whatever it may be. Breathing out, we let go of irritation for the burned bacon, parking ticket, or bowl of oatmeal upturned onto the carpet.
All this may take 20-30 seconds.
Of course, we take care of our child and address whatever needs attention. When we can do so while calm rather than irritated, we are much more kindly, clearheaded and effective.
What if irritation sticks around? Well, irritation, grumpiness, actually all emotions arise out of what’s going on in our brain- our thoughts. So, we can pay attention to what we are thinking. We may be spinning some thoughts over and over: “That kid! It’s a no parking zone! Doesn’t he pay attention? Does he think I’m gonna pay for the ticket?”
Can you see how thinking those thoughts would cause agitation? And when agitated, how would we likely handle the situation? Probably in an angry and accusative way, without clear thought, without firm grounding.
So, when we notice we are spinning in thoughts, making ourself agitated, fueling actions that aren’t helpful, we can ask ourself:
How else can I look at this?
Is there another way to think about it?
What are the basic facts of the situation?
Is it helpful to be angry at him?
What was it like to get my first ticket?
How do I want to feel toward him?
Could this be an opportunity for my son to take responsibility for his actions?
Can I be firm about that and also compassionate as he deals with his first parking ticket?
In this case, the irritation sticking around was an opportunity to notice and take responsibility for our thoughts. To look inward and redirect our brain. We became mindful of the adult responsibilities he has now that he is driving. We have an opportunity to help him negotiate the system, perhaps discuss how he will earn the money to pay for it, and of course, learn to pay better attention in future.
In this scenario, we redirected our thoughts, and transformed irritation into clarity, resolution and connection.
In the first scenario, we borrowed wisdom from meditation traditions and neuroscience to turn irritation into kindness and calm.
In each way we find opportunity to learn and grow as parents, and as human beings.