The Daily Groove

Red Light, Green Light

Virtually all of us "lose it" with our kids at some point. Then later we say, "I didn't want to yell at my child, but I couldn't stop myself."

If you want to avoid these parent-child "collisions," you have to pay more attention to your "inner stoplight": stress.

Suppose you're worried about getting your child to an appointment on time. Worrying is stressful, so it's a red light telling you to stop and get centered before moving on. But long ago you were trained to tolerate stress, so you don't notice the red light. You're on a collision course!

Which parent is more likely to end up yelling, the one who's centered or the one who's stressed?

Today, pay close attention to your subtle feelings. Decide that even "mild" tension or irritation is a red light. Stop, breathe, reach for better-feeling thoughts, and wait for the green-light feeling of relief before you take action.

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Re: Red Light, Green Light

A client sent me this question:

My husband insists on telling me when my Red Light is on; he says that his intention is to help me. I say to him that it does not help me; on the contrary, it bothers me!

Today, after reading the Daily Groove he said to me: "So from now on I will just say 'Red Light' to help you see that your stress level is up. Shouldn't the Red Light come from within, not from somebody else's advice?

My response:

You're right that the red and green lights represent your inner guidance. It's possible that someone who is tuned in to you will "see" your Red Light before you do, if you are not tuning in to your guidance. But for him to say "Red Light" might confuse you as you try to sort out your inner guidance from other, outer influences.

It's impossible for someone other than you to know exactly what your inner guidance is — only you are directly connected to it. So a better way for him to offer his well-intentioned help would be to encourage you to tune in to your guidance, even if he has a strong intuition as to what your guidance will tell you. For example...

"You seem a bit stressed... Would you like me to take the kids for a while so you can connect with what's going on in you?"

The idea is to gently remind you that you have the option to pause and get centered before you take any further action, and not to impose a decision on you. Or, if he is really concerned that your stress might cause problems, he might make a request such as...

"Would you be willing to take a few moments and check in with your inner guidance?"

And he might even offer to assist you through "active listening" or a similar support technique. His desire to help is a good thing, so let him know that while you don't want him to be a substitute for your inner guidance, you welcome any support that helps you be more connected to your own guidance.

Eventually you'll discover that supplementing each other's inner guidance by sharing what you see is a very good way to increase your family's "collective emotional intelligence," but only when it's done in a spirit of partnership, unconditional acceptance, and faith that you are each capable of finding your way.