The kids were running late for school and Sarah was starting to grow impatient and get angry. 12-year-old Sam wanted to grab a snack, and Peter the 10-year-old was arguing with his sister who was making fun of him. Everyone was ignoring her! Sam opened a can of almonds spilling them everywhere. And also stepped on Sarah’s foot.
Sarah was working from home now and this was her third week. She was tired because she had been juggling online meetings and trying to get the Kiddos into a new routine. It was hot. It was also hard being a solo parent and she lost it. She shouted in her son Sam’s face – not exactly the kind and consistent approach she had been striving for as a working from home mum. But it happened.
Impatience and Anger
We all get angry. Depending on your personality style, these impatient and angry moments can be quite frequent. Look, it’s part of life, sometimes we lose our temper. “Parents are not intentionally going into a situation and saying if my child misbehaves, I’m going to blow up at them and yell uncontrollably,” says Karen Bridbord, PhD, a psychologist certified by the Gottman Institute, who specializes in relationships. It’s how we’re programmed to respond. “We call it ‘amygdala hijacking,'” says Bridbord. “Our emotions overwhelm us, and our heart rate is escalating. Our bodies experience the situation as if we are in fight or flight mode.” But this natural response evolved to save us from saber-toothed tigers, not to negotiate the subtler challenges of being a parent.
So, how do we move into “action” and not react in an angry or impatient way? Often when we react we criticize, humiliate, or even ridicule. Instead of targeting your kids’ behavior, it becomes a personal criticism. Like “You never listen to me!”, or “You’re so slow all the time”. Shaming or naming only leads to feelings of unworthiness or inadequacy, says Linda Kavelin Popov, author of the Family Virtues Guide.
It’s about taking a breath in and saying to yourself this word that I teach to the children in my DISCovering Me Program for Youth. Can you guess the word? It’s STOP! It’s one of my mantras I often use. Carla Naumburg, PhD, author of “Parenting in the Present Moment” has a great acronym for STOP. “S is for Stop, T is for Take a breath, O is for Observe, P is for Proceed,” says Naumburg. “The idea is to stop whatever you are doing, take a deep breath, and notice what’s going on around you. You can get a little headspace before responding, so you can be more thoughtful instead of going into a “knee jerk” reaction.
Why the DISC Styles React Under Stress
In the DISC Model for Observable Behavior there are four Primary Styles: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance and each one reacts a certain way when under stress – becomes impatient and angry. Before I go on to explain when and how each style reacts, too remember what the four styles are, think of four birds. Yep that’s right birds. Here they are: Eagle is for Dominance, Parrot is for Influence, Dove is for Steadiness and Owl is for Compliance. You can learn more about these styles by going to one of my Blog Posts.
Just like hunger primes a toddler for a tantrum, or a teen not being allowed out with their friends, parents have triggers too. Here are the personal fears and what each Bird Style becomes when under stress – or when they might become impatient or angry.
The EAGLE Style’s personal fear is losing. What I mean here is, when they feel that they are losing control of the situation. They see their environment as antagonistic and so have a belief they need to take charge. Under stress they may become a bit of a dictator and others will experience them as aggressive. Definitely patience is not a virtue that comes easily to an Eagle. So, if you see yourself as an Eagle, remember what the mantra is that I often use? Yep, STOP! And take a breath.
The PARROT Style’s personal fear is rejection. They like to focus on people and can be somewhat disorganized and spontaneous. Under stress the Parrot may become sarcastic and others will sometimes experience them as superficial. When becoming angry they will have a difficult time controlling their emotions. If you see yourself as a Parrot I’ll say it again just like I asked the Eagle, what’s the mantra I often use? STOP and take a breath!
The DOVE Style’s personal fear is sudden change. Just like the Parrot their focus is on people and they can be indecisive and indirect when under stress. Doves become irritated when others are insensitive. They find it hard to be assertive, so will often not share how they’re feeling. So, if the kids are running late for the school bus, oh boy, their patience will wear thin, even though patience is one of their virtue strengths. If you see yourself as a Dove what’s that mantra again?
The OWL Style’s personal fear is being wrong. They like to focus on the details of the task and are comfortable with planning and order. Owls need to work on worrying less about everything. Under stress this style withdraws and becomes headstrong. When it comes to their personal limitations others see them as too critical and impersonal. So, if you think that you might be an Owl my mantra applies to you as well….say to yourself STOP and then take a breath! Or maybe even a couple of breaths.
Adapting is the Key to Managing those Difficult Moments
“Adapting” doesn’t mean “imitating” another person’s style. It means staying true to yourself while simultaneously considering the wants and needs of your kids and other family members. You know how to negotiate relationships in a way that allows everyone to win. Maintaining adaptability in every situation may cause long term stress for you. However, much like working out our muscles and becoming sore afterwards, practicing moderate adaptability will allow you to become comfortable with it over time. Remember, practicing no adaptability, would cause your kids to view you as rigid and uncompromising because you insist on behaving according to your own natural style with no regard for their preferences. Oh, and by the way they have a Bird Style as well, so it helps to know what each of your Styles are. Want to find out? Take my Free Summary DISC assessment.
In my next Blog post – Part 2, I’m going to share about how you can develop certain Virtue Strengths or as some call them human qualities, for dealing with situations that make you feel angry and impatient. I’ll also share some affirmations (positive statements) that I use to challenge and overcome my self-sabotaging and negative thoughts. When you repeat them often, and believe in them, you can start to make positive changes. I invite you to share my mantra and this Blog with others that you know to help when anger and impatience takes over – situations we have all experienced with our kids and spouse.