Down Syndrome · Parents · Perspective

To Respond or To React . . .

. . . that is the question.

A wise woman, a managerial mentor, once taught me the valuable lesson of response versus reaction. This was a lesson in personnel management and not in parenting. Yet, the lesson can be applied in all facets of life when interacting with adverse people.

Let’s say someone rudely stares at your child, or makes a derogatory statement using the “R” word (or even a slang comment not directed at your child but in proximity to your child’s hearing), or becomes impatient with you and your child as they try to navigate the “normal” rushed world and our presence alone is impeding their perceived ideal of the world. Or, let’s say some rushed, ill-tempered individual presents all three scenarios wrapped into one nice bundle of rudeness. What do you do? How do you best address the problem? How do you best advocate for your child and for others who are disabled?

The options are simple:  respond or react. 

The compulsion for most of us is reaction. Yet, reaction, while nipping the rude individual in the butt, addresses the immediacy of the problem, often it is not the most constructive way to progress effective change. Furthermore, reaction is being observed by our children and can be translated erroneously as a hostile challenge to the questions that lay deep within each of us, chewing up confidence and spitting out fear.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing improper about a positive reaction of defense for someone threatening the safety and well-being of our children or anyone else for that matter. Even reacting to defend emotional well-being is necessary at times. Yet, responding, taking the moments before firing back in rudeness, staring back with the evil eye, using derogatory comments in return, and demonstrating hostile reactive impatience to meet the presence of the same in kind, will gain more ground toward respectfulness than reactiveness. Bitter reaction gains nothing other than a reaffirmation of false impressions, misunderstandings, and continued degradation. 

So, respond. Ask a question. Inform, calmly. Address reasonably. Act as the person who knows the truth of a situation ( which is the person you are – the expert on your child) and do not lend the rudeness your reactive anger, frustration, or indignence to someone who will multiply you loan in return. 

There is no patented formula to what you do, or what to do first. A question may only instigate more belligerence. Information may fall on deaf ears. Being reasonable may be lost on the unreasonable. However, refusing to react, responding even by disregarding the provocations as nothing worthy of your attention since these issues aren’t yours nor do they apply accurately to you or your child, can be response enough to those who choose to be incorrigible enough to act a fool to begin with. You’ll know what and how to respond if you take the time to stave off the immediacy of a reactive impulse. 

You choose how you respond to such matters and, sometimes, you’ll react before your ability to respond sets in. I still do yet not at all like I did before this principle waa revealed to me. In fact, what I know, is that my ability to respond more frequently to rude people increasingly led to increased awareness of understanding for the offenders and greater peace of mind for me. And, in circumstances where my reactive state is most natural, as a mom, responding rather than reacting let others learn more about my son and gave my son greater peace of mind as well. Hostile reactions seldom, if ever, offer such a gift to both parties – giver and recipient alike.

So, in closing, remember that no one else should ever have so much power in their oppressiveness that we lose our freedom to respond to ignorance with knowledge and wisdom. And, wisdom should never be lost into the fray of the unaware and indignant. 

Meet the unknowing where they are and demonstrate the change you want to see in a world that can be unkind. Respond with firm confidence that effectively educates others about the effects of their actions, words, and conduct by showing effective actions, speaking without belittling, and conducting yourself in a responsive way rather than reactively pouncing on those who live for the reactions of others. 

After all, it’s said and proven that you will get more bees with honey than with vinegar. 

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