When we lose permission to reflect…

When we lose permission to reflect…


I read an article in the New Yorker once about what happened in Syria.  I was struck by one thing in particular about this article. It’s written as a conversation between two people. Here’s the part that made me pause:

At a certain point, caution is another word for indecisiveness. Obama looks weak! Or worse—indifferent. Anyway, he should have thought ahead when he called chemical weapons a “red line.” He set that trap a year ago, and now we’re in it.

Why does it have to be a trap?

Because our credibility is on the line.

I think we make this mistake in our own lives, with ourselves, all the time. Somewhere along the line I’ve bought into the idea that as a mother to properly “teach” my children well, I needed to react quickly and with decisiveness in every situation. I needed to prove that I was the one in control. I needed to match the consequence to the misdemeanor as close as possible in real time.

And perhaps in some situations that was true. Maybe when they were younger and touched something they shouldn’t have (let’s say the stove) teaching them “no, hot!” needed to be in close proximity.

But it seems this blanket idea of needing immediate reaction has gotten muddled and off track. Because ultimately, it started making me feel that my own sense of control in a situation was deeply tied to my ability to take immediate action. In fact immediate (re)action became a pseudonym for leadership. When, most of the time, if I took a minute to put on my glasses I could see more clearly what the real issue at hand was.

Thoughtful pause, consideration, deliberation… this began to mean indecisiveness and weakness; that I “missed out on striking when the iron was hot.”

As my children are growing, I realize how damaging this core belief is not only in my mothering, but in my life in general. When we lose the permission to pause, we lose access to wisdom. We give up the opportunity to make clearer, more thoughtful, more aligned choices in our lives because we fear giving ourselves time to think through how to respond to the situation means we lose some of our authority and control.

I think this is a socially pervasive core belief many of us have bought into. But most of the time, we’d do much better to allow the pause, seek true wisdom, and calmly decide on the best course of action (or consequence, or discipline, or communication).

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!


14 responses to “When we lose permission to reflect…”

  1. Absolutely!! Giving myself permission to pause, to say “Let me think about that,” has saved me and my child a world of grief. And it is one of the reasons I so admire President Obama- I have had enough of cowboys. I hope he will stay the course in taking his time to think it through. Thanks for your thoughtful article.

    1. Monique Hoke Avatar
      Monique Hoke

      I totally agree. But I i have a question ona same but different subject…how tonwe build structure for teen/adult sons (4)!(1) daughter? I feel it might be a tad bit late

  2. I hear you! I think the false notion of fast response does come out of those early years when fast responses are necessary and then of course is perpetuated in a culture always on red alert and drive through mentality.

    As kids get older so much of what they ask and need of us does require thought and deliberation.

  3. I do not think that caution should be mistaken for indecisiveness, but I also recognize how often in my life I have just truly been indecisive. I remember telling God it would have been helpful he sent an owners manual with each child. Fear of making the wrong choice can be crippling.

  4. Beth Pingel Avatar
    Beth Pingel

    Yes! When I wait for my emotions and irritation to settle down, my parenting and discipline are always more effective! It also gives my children an opportunity to really think about their behavior! I let them know “we will talk about this tomorrow…” So much happens in each of our hearts while we are waiting.

  5. As ‘they’ say only fools rush in

  6. Irene Lund Avatar
    Irene Lund

    The picture and quote are not my work computer desktop background! So very true and needed.

    1. Irene Lund Avatar
      Irene Lund

      “are now”, not “are not”!!

  7. I agree! “Practice the pause” is a phrase I use often and try hard to live by.
    Often when our emotions are at high intensity, we the lose the ability to make choices based on clarity and perspective. We react with limited information.
    I do believe we would be better off if we paused more and reacted less. How about when my daughter asked me where babies come from? I immediately went into a panic but was able to pause and say to her, ” That is a really important question. I have to think about the answer so that I can tell you the right thing. I’ll get back to you.” She gave me an hour!

  8. We loved your article so much we had to share it with our parenting audience on our website and on Facebook. Powerful words Lisa!!! “When we lose the permission to pause, we lose access to wisdom. We give up the opportunity to make clearer, more thoughtful, more aligned choices in our lives because we fear giving ourselves time to think through how to respond to the situation means we lose some of our authority and control.”

  9. I think this is so true- nothing destroys your credibility more with a child than overreacting, threatening a consequence for their behavior and then not following through.

    I f I am being pushed to make a decision on something like a sleepover or party where I don’t know all the facts, or the parents, etc., I have found it really great to say: “if you insist on pushing me for an answer now, the answer is definitely no, but if you can wait, you might get a different answer. Please wait until I am ready to discuss it with you further”

    the whole “take a breath and count to ten thing” is really helpful!!!

  10. I can’t argue with pausing to allow our emotions to be replaced with wisdom; however, you must seek wisdom from the correct source. Otherwise, your pause may end up with a similar wrong affect. Seek the advice of the one that created the world, not from those of us that live in the world and constantly mess things up.

  11. I immediately thought about my reaction to my children when they push me too far. I must pause…

    I also think about my ADD — and how when I make ‘reactive’ decisions – they are usually not the right ones. I don’t take the time to pause. That’s so hard to do in my busy brain.

    Great post!

  12. I resonated with this in terms of my current work place – a vet clinic. It is a busy and sometimes overwhelming place with high stress levels. There is a sense of ‘competition’ between coworkers. Those who are able to react more quickly, seem to be seen as more ‘competent’ or ‘better’ at their job. I struggle a lot with feeling ‘less than’ as I tend to be a person who likes to think things through before jumping. By the time I have decided what to do, someone else has leapt into action, thereby making me feel less competent than them. It is not an overly positive situation for me, I recognize that. It’s just that I am trying to ‘follow the bread crumbs’ of my passion in life. This is one of the bread crumbs. But I also recognize the importance of this in terms of parenting my teens. I need more ‘pause’ and less ‘reaction’ in situations. I will try to ‘practise the pause’ more in my parenting.

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