Storm in a Teacup? How to Stop Over-Reacting

Do you ever let your emotions get the better of you, and you cause a storm in a teacup? Learn how to stop over-reacting. Your life (and the lives of those you are with) will be so much more peaceful.

“The sun was out, and the brilliant blue sky was dotted with big, white, cotton-wool clouds. But there were storm clouds building inside the car.

Storm in a Teacup? How to Stop Over-Reacting

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A Thunderclap

One day, when I was about eight years old, my younger sister and I happily hopped in the car for the trip home after school. We usually walked, but every now and then, our mother came and picked us up. The sun was out, and the brilliant blue sky was dotted with big, white, cotton-wool clouds. But there were storm clouds building inside the car.

While still parked, our mother began her unexpected speech.

“I’ve had enough!” she announced.

We looked up at her curiously from the backseat, mouths agape. This was not the normal after school greeting!

“Every day you girls tell me, ‘You’d better do this,’ or ‘You’d better do that.’ But I’ve had enough.”

We were silent. To our surprise, our usual little-girl requests seemed to be understood as constant badgering.

You’d better, you’d better, you’d better! I don’t like being told ‘you’d better’!”

She was cross!

Oh. My. Goodness. I wasn’t even aware there was a problem. And in my eight-year-old mind, she seemed to be making a big deal of something that was unknown to us. But just the same, it felt awful. Our mother was so rarely cross. She was over-reacting!

Our faces reddened, and our hearts were in our mouths as she kept on going for what seemed like an age.

Finally, the doom and gloom ended as she started the car. “From now on, please ask me to do things differently.”

We quietly nodded in submission, horrified we had upset her so much. Who knew? But could we tell her to stop over-reacting? Well, no!

The Big Build-Up

Looking back on this event, and having the benefit of five of my own kids, I suspect my mother was reacting to something that had happened earlier that morning. I’ve no idea what it was, but I can imagine it building up inside her all day.

I can picture how it went as we got ready for school:

You’d better give me ham in my sandwich today!

You’d better remember to get some eggs, there are none left!

“Oh Mum, you’d better pick us up from school so we can . . . !”

These are simple, innocent questions and reminders. But unfortunately, they were not received by her that way. Unfortunately, up until that point there was no discussion about speaking differently. Not that I remember anyway.

During that day while we were at school, she probably talked to her twin sister, our auntie, about it. And as they usually did, they came up with a plan. While they were identical, and often knew things about each other, our aunt could not have known there was a lack of coaching about how to use our words. She didn’t realize she was helping our mother to over-react.

Because it’s happened to me, I can imagine Mum stewing about it all day, with the problem becoming quite big in her mind. By the time she picked us up, like thunder on a summer’s day, the storm had brewed, and her words hit us without warning. At this point, she had not learnt to stop over-reacting.

Did something like that ever happen to you?

Being accused of a crime you have no idea you committed is not much fun. And while my sister and I were guilty as charged, perhaps it might have resolved differently if our mother explained how she wanted us to speak to her, before getting to the point of anger.

It’s helpful to communicate there’s a problem before sparks fly.

My mother’s emotion in the moment was out of proportion with the size of the problem. I know from personal experience it’s so easy to do that. Maintaining control of emotions is a challenge, especially when you’re cross. It’s never easy to stop over-reacting, but very worthwhile if you can do it!

I don’t have the benefit of being able to ask her about her side of the story. However, as I’ve thought about this incident over the years, I’ve tried to see what happened from her perspective, and get a grip on how I might do things differently. I’ve attempted to learn from her mistakes. (I hope you can learn from your mother’s mistakes too.) I learnt NOT to create a storm in a teacup.

8 Ways to Stop Over-Reacting

Or, Avoid Creating a Storm in a Teacup

1. Be pro-active

Explain to your family members ahead of time how you want them to communicate, or behave, or whatever it is. Let the issue be part of your family values. “Our family is kind.” Or “Our family respects one another.” In other words, let them know exactly what you expect from them.

2.      Talk first

If you are upset about something, it’s good to talk about it first with someone you can trust before venting to your kids. It’s all about trying not to over-react with your special little people. My mother had the right idea when she talked it through with her sister. But for some she got worked up into a frenzy and over-reacted.

3.      Explain everything

Make sure you tell all when you talk to your confidant. Try not to leave information out, to give yourself every opportunity to stop over-reacting.

4.      When you’re on the listening end . . .

If ever asked to listen to someone about their situation, make sure you know everything before giving advice. In fact, it’s wise to avoid giving advice (like my aunt did), and just help the person work out what to do by asking them questions.

Most likely there’s a solution they can work out for themselves with your help.

5.      Wait a moment

Once you have decided what to do with your problem, sit on it. Occasionally the advice or wisdom given, or your course of action, isn’t quite right. Pray and ask God to show you if there’s anything that needs adjustment. Use your motherly intuition.

6.      Avoid an angry interaction

If you are still upset, cross or angry when it’s time to dish out the consequences, you’re probably not in the best place to deliver the information. It’s a good idea to delay the moment until you are calmer.

The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love

Psalm 145:8 NIV

7.      Don’t leave it too long!

However, don’t let too much time pass, or “forget about it.” Because, of course, you don’t forget. This is a potential long-term problem which will get worse unless you address it.

8.      Remember, we ALL make mistakes

Sometimes, you do muck it up. Oh my gosh, I did this so many times while my children were growing up! If I realized I had overdone it (or underdone it), putting my children down instead of building them up, then I’d be praying!

  1. I’d pray God would forgive me for my inappropriate words, and help me to stop over-reacting to them.
  2. I’d ask him to keep my little ones safe from my damaging words and actions in body, soul and spirit .
  3. And especially, I’d ask that they forget the incident, and I would have an opportunity to make it up to them.

It’s so easy to over-react to your children in times of stress and make a storm in a teacup. However it’s a common, and fixable, situation. Don’t despair if this happens to you! I don’t remember another incident like this with my mother after that moment. She too learnt not to over-react.

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