When I’m Mad

The cat scratched me and I got mad. I was so mad I growled like a lion. I was getting ready to charge at him like a cheetah, when I heard a sound on the side that was like a chicken, “Sboc! Bawk, bawk, bawk!” It was my daughter–and she was actually helping me calm down.

What she was really saying was S.B.O.C. It’s one of the mantras I try, try, try to tell myself and model when I need to self-regulate; one of the help I offer my daughter when needed; and one of the things I hope, hope, hope will be our top-of-mind to help get us through when we both need to co-regulate.

S.B.O.C. Stop. Breathe. Observe. Choose.

Stop. In challenging moments, we often feel like we need to do something and we need to do it right then and there. But I find that I am usually able to respond in the way I hope to when my first action is to stop. We don’t have to do anything right away, right now. And in that space between that pause and our next response, find peace.

Breathe. I thought the famous inhale-exhale wasn’t going to work for me. I felt that the more I breathed in and out, the more my brain was focusing on the fact that I am mad–because that’s why I was inhaling and exhaling in the first place. But then I started thinking of the breaths I take as a way to bring oxygen to the brain–which I’ll need for my next steps and responses. Plus, I need the B for Breathe–because otherwise my acronym would just sound different (haha).

Observe. Hopefully a well-oxygenated brain will help me observe. What is the need? Why did the cat (or the child, or another person) act the way he did? What message is he trying to communicate to me?

Choose. I choose the response I want to give–the message I hope to convey. I choose the kind of person I want to be in that moment. Choose connection.

That’s S.B.O.C. 4 steps I try, try, try to take to help me get through and rise above challenging moments.

And really, it helps that it sounds funny! When my daughter said it then when I was just about to charge at the cat (“Sboc! Bawk, bawk, bawk!”), it made me laugh (and really, I also found that while empathy and connection are all important; in those challenging moments, sometimes you also just need a little humor).

And so I stopped. I thanked my daughter for the help. And breathed.

I observed–I told my daughter that I think in the mornings our cat pounces and swats his paws in that way that he sometimes scratches because maybe he wants to play. We thought about our options and said we’d choose to set aside a few minutes every morning to play with him, then offer him some cat toys he can pounce and swat and run after. And it worked–every morning, after we play with him a little and offer him other cat toys for his own independent play; he naps.

All throughout our days, there will be so, so many opportunities for us to model and practice grace and courtesy, emotional agility–if only we’ll see it as such and see that the situation is not a “test of patience”, but a chance to model and practice the kind of parent we hope we are–and take the opportunity… even with a cat.


I have written some more about what I try to do in challenging moments: Something I recite to myself and a Peace Basket.

Incidentally, here are some of the things we have now on our Peace Table:

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: The Poetry of Mister Rogers

Mister Rogers peg doll by Peggyrrific, given to us by my friend Paula / Mama the Explorer

How Am I Feeling: Emotion Cards that Promote Empathy and Emotional Intelligence by Jackelyn Bugarin-Uy, RN (which I won from a giveaway by also Paula / Mama the Explorer)

Fred’s Big Feelings: The Life and Legacy of Mister Rogers by Laura Renauld

P.S. That’s the cat.

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