The Blog

How To Avoid Overreacting

By October 17, 2018 No Comments

When our son was a teenager, I made more than a few parenting mistakes. Most of the time, I was able to identify where I went wrong, learn from it and avoid making the same mistake again. You saw the part where I wrote, “MOST of the time” right? However, there was one misstep that I seemed to step in over and over and over again.

The biggie for me was allowing myself to overreact and engage negatively in text messages with my son. When in a frustrating text conversation I would use sarcasm I wouldn’t use in person or say things via text I’d never say if he and I were face to face. As a result, I often found myself apologizing later for text messages I should have never sent. Ugh.

I get it; parenting is stressful, the stakes are high, our kids push our buttons and It’s easy to overreact at any given moment. But there’s almost never an upside to overreaction. An appropriate and timely reaction is a necessary parenting skill, but overreaction seems to rule the day for many parents. I know it did for me for a while.

If you find yourself in a cycle of overreaction, here are three things you can do to get a better grip on your goof-ups.

  1. IDENTIFY THE TRIGGER.

    What is it about that particular incident or scenario that triggers your response? Is there something deeper going on within you that causes you to react in a way you later regret?

  2. PUT YOURSELF IN THEIR SHOES.

    If the roles were reversed, and you were the child, how would you hope your parent would respond to the situation at hand? Go back in time and try to remember what you were like when you were their age…putting yourself in their shoes is a great way to build empathy!

  3. PAUSE, PRAY, PROCEED.

    These three simple steps will become your best friend! The more intense the heat of the moment, the more important it is to hit the pause button and ask God for patience, wisdom, insight or whatever you need from Him in the moment before you proceed with a response. When you pause and pray, the odds of proceeding in a manner you will later regret decrease dramatically!

There’s no silver bullet, and no 3-step process is guaranteed to break the cycle of overreaction, but these simple steps may at least help. It’s worth trying right! Because as the old saying goes, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”

Kurt Johnston

Next Gen Pastor at Saddleback Church
In youth ministry since 1988, Kurt Johnston has been at Saddleback Church since 1997, and currently supports the kids and youth ministry teams. Kurt has written almost 100 books, resources, and training curriculum to help encourage other pastors serving the next generation. Kurt and his wife, Rachel, live in Southern California and have two adult children.
Kurt Johnston