Think the “but” Don’t Say the “but”

This is an excellent post about frustration and tantrums. It validates something I posted previously about my own frustration watching my children explode into emotional helplessness. The thing I want to point out here, is that this article is written for any parent. I have to keep reminding myself that ANY and EVERY parent struggles with the tough stuff. We all get frustrated.

The reason that this is important, is that although I accept my long term PTSD, and that I may have strong triggers for my entire life – I am not THAT different. I am on the spectrum for experiencing MORE frustration, more emotional upset when my children show frustration or other strong emotions. Somehow knowing that everyone feels this way, to a lesser extent, and that I’m not completely out of range, well, that is calming to me.

I’m also going to point out that when my son goes to his place of frustration, he can’t be reached by my words any longer. I understand the technique in here, copied below, but I still have no tools to get my son down from a level 100 explosion. Other than time. Usually an hour. If you’ve ever heard your darling scream, moan, and whimper for an hour with no change, no return to center, no calming, no acceptance of help, no acknowledgement of you or anything else in the world – well, I’m sorry, and you know it is one of the most difficult feelings to handle in the world. I know how bad it feels to me, so it breaks my heart to think he is feeling so out of control inside of himself.

“Usually, if you convey to your child that you are bigger than his big feelings, the storm will pass in a few minutes. Stay present and as calm as you can (yep, that feels superhuman at times!) and acknowledge what he’s feeling without trying to assert your point of view or distract him. Try something like, “You really wish we could stay at the park all afternoon.” Then zip it! Avoid the temptation to add “but we really need to get home.” The “but” undoes all of the empathy you just offered. Once you’ve validated his emotions—which almost always has a calming effect even though it seems like you’re fueling the fire because you’re simply agreeing with his feelings—he’ll feel seen and heard and will start to relax. Once you feel that shift, you can gently nudge him toward the next steps, such as getting his coat and saying goodbye to playmates.”

I do however, completely agree with the “no but” rule. Adding “but” negates validations. This is true for adults or children. If you offer empathy or an apology, and follow it with a but, then the first half of that thought is erased. Hubby still “buts” us. Takes a ton of self control and inner awareness and calm to keep that but from being said. I know.

So, try to just think the but, don’t say the but.



6 thoughts on “Think the “but” Don’t Say the “but”

  1. When I first read this, I kept thinking of my NM. I remember when she found this piece of advice, years ago, only it was in reference to a compliment. The author suggested keeping compliments and corrections for separate conversations. I remember watching my mother’s excitement over this new bit of wisdom. I remember thinking that finally I wouldn’t have the constant reminder of what I could have done better. Then I watched it play out. I was astounded to watch her dole out the compliment and then NOT say but while continuing on with the criticism. “You cleaned the bathroom well…you’ll want to remember to wipe down the side of the cabinet.” She simply finally rid herself of using the pesky word “but.”

    I am learning to talk this way to myself, and I’m amazed at how re-affirming it is to simply allow myself to feel what I’m feeling and think what I’m thinking. However, sometimes I forget, and this was a great reminder.

    • OH my, I’m just shaking my head. I totally understand how that would have went, and how she thought she was actually following that advice by simply omitting the word but. So I guess I should say think the negative, don’t say the negative for all the controlling N’s out there. Hmmm.

      This is also very interesting to me, because my parents often did the opposite of this in a way. They would give me tasks that were too big or new for my age, offer no guidance, and then show disappointment when it was not done perfectly, but I had no idea what perfectly was. I’d get a “I don’t know why I thought you could do something so simple, obviously I need to everything if I want it done”

      I remember being 16, working 1 of my 2 after school jobs, and the manager asked me to mop the pizza shop. I looked at that huge mop and ringer bucket and wondered if I could even move it. I got started and I heard laughing behind me, but a nice laughing as he watched my tiny girl frame try to maneuver that thing. He says “Oh sweetie, I can see you’ve never done this before, here let me show you an easier way” I was so shocked that he took his time to show me something. He also saw that I was just too little for that, and never asked me to do it again, leaving it to the taller boys. I was grateful to him for guiding me, and for not making me do something that was a bit too difficult, and for being gentle with me. He did not belittle me, just found a better use of my time. I was much better at slicing veggies or making dough for prep. Strange how these little moments shape us. I got more parenting from him than in the previous 16 years. I loved that job.

      • Yes! Being asked to do things and expected to just do it and then criticized for doing it wrong. Rubbing salt in the wound, NM would always say, “You’re doin’ the doin’; do it your way.” Which, of course, was a lie. If it wasn’t her way, it was wrong.

        I wasn’t allowed to work. School was my job. Hearing about your boss warmed my heart. Bless him.

  2. My son is 17. So reason is a bit more available, but getting his anger to a simmer rather than a boil is hard. I think, and I could be off about this, that I try to live by example. Which makes it easier to reach him when he’s losing his shit.

    Not claiming I’ve any idea of what I’m doing. I had no example to live by. I just try to do what I wish I’d had growing up.

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