7: choose the high road


“When emotional reactions replace mindfulness, you’re on the low road and it is very unlikely that you will be able to maintain nurturing communication and connection with your child.”
– Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell , Parenting from the Inside Out

Another problem I’ve encountered in my parenting is anger. I never really realized how I can easily get so out of control when faced with a situation that is not going my way.

I can be pretty out of touch with my emotions. Except for some reason anger comes easily.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19

So I simmer.

And stew.

And eventually just boil over.

I tend to stew quietly until I explode emotionally and feel entirely out of control.

One example of my anger happens around bedtime when both of us are tired and sleep is necessary.

Unfortunately sometimes kids just don’t sleep when you want them to. It might be gas, it might be new teeth coming in, it might be too much of the wrong food or just too little time with one or the other parents in his life.

Kids’ sleep is so unpredictable.

At bedtime I find myself getting more and more frustrated with his lack of sleep the longer I attempt to help him sleep. Sometimes I end up bent on just making him sleep no matter what (which we all know is a pointless endeavor) and angry that he just wouldn’t sleep.

Not a good situation.

Once we’re on that train wreck waiting to happen it’s basically self-propelled.

The little one, who I think is causing all the trouble, is actually tuning in the stress of the situation (put there by moi) and it just gets less and less likely that he’ll actually go to sleep. (This happens much less now at publishing than it did when I first wrote this. Since now he actually sleeps…ha)

This can also easily happen at other times when obedience or listening is in order. It is so easy to let little things escalate when my temper is short.

I do need him to listen and obey and sleep.


And I need him to do it without me getting overly angry.

But since he is not going to obey all the time and he is definitely not in charge of how I am feeling when he doesn’t do what he is told (or expected to do) that is my responsibility, not his.

“One of the biggest things that has changed is when I chill FIRST, my children often follow that lead even without realizing it.” – Arianne Segerman

I need to learn how to not give in to my frustration as I am teaching him to obey and helping him to learn about life ( and sleep!). This will probably help my kiddo to be able to obey more easily as well. If he is dealing with a mama who is under control and balanced, he is more likely to be under control and relaxed in the situation.

In Parenting from the Inside Out, Siegel and Hartzell call the out-of-control or reactive state we can fall into low-mode processing or the Low Road and the alternative, where connection and mindfulness come into play, the High Road .

“When you feel stressed or find yourself in situations with your child that trigger past unresolved issues, your mind may shut off and become inflexible. This inflexibility can be an indication that you are entering a different state of mind that directly impairs your ability to think clearly and maintain an emotional connection to your child.”
Parenting from the Inside Out

That is the low road.

When you are on it, you might stop caring about how your child feels about what is happening and only be able to focus on how he or she is not meeting your expectations or demands, which you are now completely unwilling to compromise on.

Being on the low-road sets you up “to have knee-jerk reactions instead of thoughtful responses.”

Such as the irrational decision that I make when I decide at bedtime: “You-are-going to go to sleep, no ifs, ands, or buts, if I have to bounce you for two hours!”

Because I said so.

It becomes difficult to see how this is actually effecting both of you and your relationship. However as we become aware of what sends us to the low road (bedtime antics) we can be more understanding and cognizant of our feelings without giving in to the irrational side of it all.

“Becoming aware of our bodily sensations is a first step to understanding the experience on the low road. Making a conscious effort to alter our bodily reactions on the low road can help to free us from the prison of these engrained reflexes. The brain looks to the body to know how it feels and to asses the meaning of things; thus, becoming aware of our bodily reactions can be a direct and effective means to deal with low road immersion.

Changing the impact of the low road in our lives may require becoming familiar with the origins of these experiences.”
Parenting from the Inside Out

Which will eventually bring us to our other option, a higher nobler calling. It takes vision, self-control, and self-reflection.

It is the high road. And it is where all of our good-parenting fantasies are centered.

“The high road allows us to make flexible chioces that support our values in raising our children. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be conflict or that our children will never be upset or unhappy. It does mean we can choose how we respond to their behavior. Taking the high road gives us the opportunity to be thoughtful and intentional in our communication and choose actions that support a healthy, loving relationship with our children.”

Parenting from the Inside Out

I love the thought of being “thoughtful and intentional” with my kiddo. It sounds happy and peaceful. It sounds like low blood pressure and good relationships and stress free bedtimes.

So be easy on yourself, but pay attention. Think about why you got angry and make a conscious choice to stay on high road whenever possible.


2 thoughts on “7: choose the high road

  1. Oh my goodness how I needed this post today. I am an exploder too (learned that from Unglued by Lisa Terkhurst, also a great book!) I am totally going to rent (or buy) that book! Sounds really good.


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