This morning while I was in the dentist chair for a good two hours. (Life Lesson: If you don’t want to spend this much quality time with the dentist, you need to break the sour candy habit as soon as possible.) And like most dentists, mine has decided that having the television on while having your teeth scraped or drilled will lower anxiety. Since I never watch daytime TV, when asked what channel I want, I shrug and accept whatever’s on.
So today I saw Jo Frost, world-famous nanny, talk about her new book in which she helps frustrated parents turn their children back into the sweet things they once were. Basically, her advice for children is what works for everyone: Get enough sleep. Eat well. Get outside and play. (Today, I’m 0 for 3 on this. So perhaps I will be having a tantrum before the day is out.)
But she also talked about how to behave when your child is out of control. She has a three-step method: Step back, observe, and step in. And it occurred to me that this is a useful technique no matter with whom you’re dealing.
Too many of us skip that first step. Instead of stepping back, we jump right in. We decide that someone is being disrespectful, that we’re being cheated, or that someone doesn’t like us. But taking a step back and observing can change the whole picture.
Maybe the guy at the counter is ignoring me. Well, no one has the right to disrespect me like that; I’m a paying customer. I yell and throw the clothes I wanted to buy on the floor. (Yes, people really do that.) But if I had stepped back a second and observed, I would have seen that he’s actually looking up something for a customer on the phone.
In fact, maybe it’s wise to think of us all as just big toddlers. On any given day, some of us didn’t sleep well. Some of us need a snack. And some of us need to get our frustrations out with a good run. So we get grumpy and act out.
But as Jo Frost would tell us, someone has to be the adult in such interactions, and I would prefer it be me. Wouldn’t you?