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Teaching Kids to be Uncomfortable

I’m sitting in church watching the parade of children. A child walks past to get a drink. Another goes to the restroom. Another is getting something they forgot. I see multiple kids go out multiple times. The church service is only an hour long, but somehow some kids manage to leave 3 or more times.

Later I’m driving down the one lane highway through farmland to my house and my daughter announces that she is thirsty. “Great” I say, "we’ll be home soon”, “But I’m THIRSTY!” She exclaims. 

When did thirst become such an emergency? Why do kids think that they can’t sit for an hour of church without getting a drink? Why is a 15 minute car ride unbearable without having a bottle of water handy? 

I can’t imagine that it has always been this way.

200 years ago as pioneers were crossing the plains, did a child announce their thirst and flop to the ground, unable to walk the remaining mile to the stream for a drink of water?

Of course not! I am assuming that they didn’t have the option to quench their thirst on demand. They just got to be thirsty until they walked to the stream.

Not even that long ago, when I was a child in the 80’s, water bottles were not much of a thing. I lived in Arizona. Heat is a big deal there, and it is important to be hydrated. I remember my parents packing a cooler of water in our van for day trips to our favorite nature spots. On the drive, I don’t remember having water bottles for when I was thirsty on the way. I think I just got to be thirsty until we got there.

I don’t remember it being a big deal.

I survived and was not scarred for life because I didn’t have a drink on the drive.

With the mass production of water bottles in recent years, I think in many ways we have lost the capacity to be thirsty.

What is so terrible about being thirsty?

Conversely why is it a problem to quench our thirst every time we are thirsty?

It comes down to discomfort.

Being thirsty is a sensation in your body. Maybe you feel a pit in your stomach, or a sinking feeling in your throat. Maybe your tongue feels dry and heavy. Whatever you feel, thirst usually feels uncomfortable. Solving thirst by getting a drink feels much better than sitting with thirst.

This morning two of my kids got in a fight over some legos. They were yelling at each other and legos were broken. As I heard about who did what, I realized, both of them experienced discomfort because of their thoughts about what their brother should have done, and instead of just being uncomfortable, they reacted with yelling and breaking things.

They could have just been uncomfortable, but instead they decided to react.

Spoiler alert: Being uncomfortable is uncomfortable. (shocker, I know)

Instead of just experiencing the discomfort of not having their sibling behave how they think they should, they reacted with anger. 

I explained to them that if they were willing to just sit with their own discomfort, they wouldn’t have needed to yell or break things. They could just be disappointed that things didn’t go the way they wanted them to. Just be disappointed. 

The same is true for myself. When my kids don’t do what I think they should, if I am willing to just be uncomfortable with the discomfort of it, I don’t need to yell, threaten, or freak out. I can just be uncomfortable.

Being thirsty and getting a drink immediately is not a problem, but being uncomfortable and needing to react to it can create problems.

If you’re at a party and there are tons of treats being eaten, if you can just be uncomfortable not eating the treats, keeping your health goals will be easier.

If you’re driving down the road and your kids are fighting, and you can just be uncomfortable with the noise, you’ll be able to react in a teachable way, not a freak-out way.

If your husband is grumpy, and you are willing to just be uncomfortable with his discomfort, you won’t need to start a fight about why he shouldn’t be grumpy. You can just move on with your life and allow him to feel how he wants to.

The other option in all of these scenarios is to react. Just eat the cupcakes, yell at your kids, and fight with your husband.

Reacting creates more problems, not less. Now you have the extra weight to deal with, the guilt and shame from not showing up as the mom you want to be, and the drama in your marriage. 

Now you have more discomfort, not less.

If you just allowed yourself to be uncomfortable in the situation, without reacting, you save yourself from the extra discomfort.

Reacting creates more problems.

Being willing to feel discomfort instead of reacting to discomfort is the key to living your life on purpose.

Doing great things requires a willingness to be uncomfortable.

The kids are never going to stop fighting completely. Your husband will be grumpy sometimes. Your house will be messy. You will be late for appointments. You will not get your to-do list done. You will have difficult people to deal with. Your life will not go according to plan.

It is uncomfortable to have things not go according to the way you planned them.

Being willing to have it be uncomfortable and show up the way you want to anyways is powerful.

Whatever you want in life - whatever you want to be, whatever you want to accomplish, whatever you want to do, you will need to be uncomfortable along the way. 

Other people are allowed to be mad, be grumpy, fight, be late, make messes, and disappoint you. You may feel an uncomfortable sensation in your body, comparable to feeling thirsty in many ways. What if you just allowed yourself to be uncomfortable? Just be disappointed with the way life turned out. And then, like when you are thirsty and you do not get a drink immediately, just allow it.

This is why I do not solve my kids thirst immediately.*

Being thirsty teaches kids to feel an uncomfortable sensation and not need to solve it.

They can be thirsty for a 15 minute drive. It is ok.

They can sit through an hour of church without leaving to get a drink. They will survive.

More than surviving, they will teach themselves how powerful they are.

Being thirsty and not needing to whine about it, cry, or flop to the ground, shows them how powerful they really are.

Every human has incredible power.

We all have the capacity to choose. 

We can freak out, or be calm. 

We can be bitter, or be happy. 

We can fight, or be peaceful. 

Thirst does not make us freak out. 

Neither does other people’s behavior.

The more you recognize discomfort for what it is, a sensation in your body, and nothing more, the more powerful you become.

Maybe I'm extreme, but sometimes when I wake up in the morning, I do not drink water for a couple of hours. It is uncomfortable, and that’s ok. It is my way of practicing discomfort.

I prove to myself that I don’t die. Nothing happens other than an uncomfortable feeling.

The better I get at feeling uncomfortable and showing up in my life anyways, the more powerful I become.

Today people are going to do things I don’t like. I will be uncomfortable, and that’s ok.

I’m going to show up the way I want to, regardless of what others do.

I will be peaceful, kind, loving, and respectful.

I have the capacity to feel discomfort and not react.

I do not need to solve other people’s behavior.

There is no emergency.

There is just my life, and I get to live it the way I want to.

If you’re ready to stop reacting to life, come get a free coaching session with me. We’ll take a look at your thoughts and see how they are causing your discomfort to escalate to a reaction. 

Awareness is key.

See you soon.

*Before you send me an angry email, I give my kids water when they need it, but when an opportunity arises to teach them, I use it. I remind them to get a drink before church starts and before we start driving, and when they are thirsty later, I remind them that it is ok to be thirsty. It just feels uncomfortable, and that’s ok. No one has died yet.

P.S. If you like what you’re reading, check out this post about blaming my kids here.


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