The difference between reacting vs responding

The difference between reacting vs responding



Learning to respond rather than react can hugely influence what happens next in a given situation. In parenting (and these rules apply to life in general), a more considered response could be the key to success.

Victor Frankl said: ‘Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.’ If you find yourself repeating the same refrain to your children, a simple edit that tempers a usually emotive reaction could yield a more positive outcome. And modeling self-control to your children will teach them this crucial life lesson too.

There’s no doubt that reacting is easier. In a stressful situation, it is far easier to say the first thing that comes to mind, and this is particularly true when parenting. Because responding involves a conscious choice to control your behaviour, it immediately makes for a calmer, less emotional interaction. This change in tone from confrontational to co-operative is less likely to be met with a toddler’s meltdown or teenager’s eye-roll.

Use these suggestions and learn the difference between reacting vs responding.

Instead of this Say this
Stop crying /whining Use your words, so that I can hear you better.
I can’t understand a thing you’re saying Take a deep breath. I’m listening. Tell me what happened.
Don’t call your brother ‘stupid’ Please use another word.
That’s not yours! That belongs to someone else. Why don’t you use this ____?
Stop crying. It’s just a little bump! Wow bruises can hurt. Let’s get an ice pack.
Don’t slam the door! We close doors gently. Shall I show you how?
I told you don’t to spill the juice! The juice has spilled. Let’s get a cloth.
Stop teasing her! ‘I hear teasing and I’d like it to stop.’ Or ‘You don’t have to be spoken to like that. Let’s go find something else to do.’
What were you thinking? When did things start going off-track?
Didn’t your study for this test? It looks like you’re struggling with History this term. How can I help?
I don’t believe you ‘Let me think about that. If it doesn’t add up we can talk about it again.

Remember there’s no parenting rule that says every behaviour needs an immediate response or reaction. If in doubt, do neither. You can leave the room, think it over during your bath, discuss the issue with a friend or spouse, breathe and count to 10, or write your feelings down in a diary. Once you’ve let your immediate emotion subside, a calmer more considered response can take place.


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