Though I strive to be sensible and balance reason with carefully considered emotions, I have had to put myself in time-out several times recently.
My kids drive me nuts because they are children and we are inside together a lot because it’s winter in Maine, and I want to lose my mind.
“Those people” on the internet drive me nuts because, in case you have not observed, things are tense out there. It seems like no matter who you are, every emotional button is being pushed in the current climate.
Keeping myself under control is not always easy. Perhaps you can relate.
I find it facinating how we work so hard to teach our kids to behave appropriately, meanwhile often misbehaving ourselves.
My daughter’s school is amazing. They have beautifully explained expectations for how people treat each other- in the classroom, at lunch, at recess. They make so much sense. And by some miracle, most of the time, like 400 five- to nine-year olds behave accordingly.
This has me thinking that surely adults like you and me could get behind some expected behavioral norms. You know, guidelines for how we should ideally act.
Now to be clear, I’m not advocating passivity or conformity. I’m no fan of those concepts.
I’m saying, let’s be mature adults.
I know, it’s a radical idea.
Behaving maturely doesn’t mean we lose our courage. It doesn’t mean we silence ourselves. It doesn’t mean we tone things down. It doesn’t mean we appease others.
It means we become more effective with our words and actions.
When we act out or talk down, we don’t actually get much out if it, do we?
Here is my proposed guidelines for what consitutes mature adult behavior.
1. Do not use your words or actions with an intention to emotionally or physically harm another person.
2. Do not make another person feel afraid on purpose.
3. Do not say insensitive things because you feel like it or think you are justified.
4. Do not tell other people how to feel.
5. Do not tell other people their feelings are wrong.
6. Do not claim to be me a more valuable human than others. All humans have equal worth.
7. Remember that you are not exempt from your behavior despite any emotion you may have. All adult people are responsible for their choices and managing their own feelings appropriately.
8. Do not make other people feel wrong, crazy, or unreasonable because you don’t like their feelings about your behavior.
9. Do not blame other people for your behaviors and choices.
10. Do not control other people’s choices, no matter how “right” you believe yourself to be.
When I’m in time-out, I’m going to reflect on these rules of thumb. I’m going to try to get grounded, and hopefully do the right thing, even when it’s not easy.
What do you think? I welcome your mature comments.
Hannah Curtis, LCSW is the founder of New Approaches, a private practice specializing in counseling and coaching for emotional health. Hannah’s specialties include communication, life transitions, postpartum support, work/life balance, stress management, relationships, and life satisfaction. She has a passion for working with other helping professionals such as social workers, teachers, therapists, doctors, and nurses, to help them reduce stress and burn-out. Hannah also creates and runs workshops/small groups on becoming “Effectively Frank” which is, in short, the art of clear, confident communication.