How to Not Take It Personally: Just Analyze It
Don’t take anything your child says or does personally.
This might sound impossible. But your child’s negative, immature, insulting, critical, and/or vulgar speech and unacceptable or hurtful behavior do not determine or affect who you are–as a parent or as a person.
Those things say a lot more about your child than about you. They say s/he is angry, doesn’t know a better way of talking, or is perhaps purposely trying to hurt your feelings or make you mad.
There is a reason–perhaps several–why she says what he says and does what he does. You may not know the details of her motivation. You can only make an educated guess, unless she tells you. It could be that she wants to engage you, wants you to do or say something even if you are angry at her.It may be that she is trying to hurt you for some reason. This where you need to maintain your cool and keep asking questions in order to encourage her to tell you what her problem is with you at the moment. Be ducky–let the harsh words roll of your back, like water off a duck’s back. If she hurts you in some way, she is acting out some anger or pain of her own that you may not understand. It is important that you realize this, and understand that she is unable or unwilling to deal with her anger and pain in a constructive way, through dialogue, which is the only real way to resolve interpersonal problems.
If you take it personally, it means you’re letting your ego (your “little me”) get in the way. Notice this, and put your ego in its place. It may not be pleasant or easy, but you need to hear what is being said because it.is the embodiment of her own pain. And you cannot possibly deal effectively with her hurtful behavior if you do not make a concerted attempt at being empathic to her suffering because of your own hurt feelings. If she seems to be angry and just lashing out to hurt you, understand that “where there’s smoke there’s fire, and where there’s anger, there’s pain.” She is suffering and she needs your help.
It might help you to read what Don Miguel Ruiz has to say on this topic. In his wonderful little book The Four Agreements he says: Never take anything personally. A tall order? Yes. But getting this one right will save you a great deal of unnecessary suffering.
Your child might be using forceful or insulting language because she’s afraid of saying what she really thinks or feels, and has to overdo it just to get it out. The bad language you hear is simply her angry, immature, self-centered, short-hand way of expressing a more complex thought. Don’t let it throw you. Try to understand what that thought is and what the feelings are. This is empathy. Respond to the thoughts and the feelings, not the foul or disrespectful language. You can always go back later and say something like, “You know, Mary, I didn’t like some of that language you were using before.”
Here’s another important way to minimize your own potential pain: forgiveness. Forgiving is for the forgiver. Your child need not know you are, in your own mind, forgiving her for her hurtful (but pan-based) behavior. And you don’t have to tell her. The value in forgiveness for you is that it helps you take the behavior less personally.
The following interchange was taped in a parenting class at Parents Place, Waukesha, Wisconsin. I print it here as an example of how one parent is learning to use the power of her own thoughts to minimize the chances that she’ll take things personally.
P1: (Parent #1) How do you not take things personally, when you’re listening? Sometimes you’re hearing things that maybe you don’t want to hear, or sometimes the person that’s talking to you is more like talking at you because they’re angry. How do you not take it personally?
C: (Chuck, instructor) That’s a great question.
P1: (Parent #1) I mean, sometimes what happens is you take it personally, and your emotions kick in, and you’re reactions are more volatile, you know?
P2: (Parent #2) You start to become defensive.
P3: (Parent #3) You know what I have found helps with that? It’s to remove myself emotionally from the situation and look at it from outside of my box. I’m learning this. By no means have I mastered it. But I have found that when I get emotionally involved in it I can’t separate myself as a mom…then I’m all mixed in there. And I have found that if I remove myself out of that “mom” box and analyze it like a business consultant would, then it’s like, “Okay, on the job, how would I handle this? Like if someone on the job did something like this, and they’re fuming, and angry, and what not, how would I handle it?” See, I’m not their “mom” anymore–I’m all of a sudden a ”consultant.” So, now, from that perspective, “How would I handle this at work?” That’s how I detach emotionally. I try not to let the guilt thing get going. I mean it’s still there, but I just can’t go there anymore because I’ll just crumble.
C: Do you do any mental gymnastics, or self-talk at that moment, that helps you do that?
P3: I just look at analyzing…like I’m an “analyzer-consultant.“ I tell myself to just analyze it, and that’s all, and not take it personally. Just analyze it. If I feel myself getting emotionally involved I try to catch myself, and just stop it. Of course, I’m gonna get emotionally involved – I’m the parent. It’s not that I’m not emotionally involved, but at that moment being too emotionally involved doesn’t help me. So I find that when I detach, and analyze it, and handle it as a business consultant, then I’m much better able to handle it. And I think they (the kids) probably are too.
So I tell myself, “Just analyze it, and don’t take it personally.”
This is great advice! Try using it.
3 Steps to Parent-Child Harmony is my book that describes in detail the differences between the Old School Parenting model and the New School Parenting model. Please see these links if you are interested in more information or wish to purchase.