It’s Not Personal

by kayris on June 7, 2010

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Recently, I was reading a piece in a magazine by a woman whose husband had left her for another woman. She was coping with the betrayal, in part, by repeating the phrase, “There is nothing personal going on here.” It sounds crazy, but realizing that the problem wasn’t her, it was her husband’s own drama, made it easier to accept and easier to deal with fear and anger.

The piece resonated with me, and the words “it’s not personal” kept popping into my head in the following days.

I’ve long held the belief that when people get angry or frustrated, it’s often for the wrong reasons. That person who cut you off in traffic didn’t do it because he picked you out specifically to annoy; he’s just a rotten or a distracted driver. That coworker who slacked on a project didn’t do it to make you look bad and steal your job; she may have been tired or overworked or maybe just is not a team player. Yes, it’s difficult when there aren’t enough checkers at the grocery store and the lines are long and tempers are flaring and the kids are climbing in the cart and squashing the bananas; but management didn’t cut staff with the express intention of making you mad. It’s my opinion that there are very few things worth getting truly angry over.

But somehow, I have had a hard time applying this theory when it comes to parenting. When your children are misbehaving or being defiant or tantruming or just being difficult, it’s really hard to not take it personally. Sometimes it feels oh so personal.

Last week, my husband was out of town for work, and my kids were dragging out bedtime one night. After my 5 year old got out of bed for what seemed like the hundredth time, I got angry and said, “Why are you guys doing this to me?” And then it hit me. They weren’t doing anything to me. Bedtime battles are incredibly normal. Developmentally speaking, 5 and 3 year olds aren’t supposed to want to stop playing and exploring and go to sleep. I have a problem settling down at night too, that’s why I do yoga.

It was not personal. My children had not huddled together in their room and made a pact to stay up half the night and keep me from cleaning and paying bills, and let’s be honest, blogging and updating my Facebook status.

Once I acknowledged that the bedtime struggles were not a personal vendetta against me and my desire for alone time, it was easier to be rational, easier to put the kids back in bed one more time, easier to not blow a gasket when they wanted water, easier to tell them that they needed their rest to be healthy and that I was done answering questions and fetching water and helping in the bathroom.

It worked. My calmer self led to calmer children who stayed in bed and went to sleep.

The next time I’m struggling as a parent, I’m going to remember this. It’s not personal.

Try it. What do you think?

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kayris (29 Posts)

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Diana Christensen June 7, 2010 at 7:44 am

This is just what I needed to hear this morning. Thank you!


Amber June 7, 2010 at 12:30 pm

I think this is so valuable. It’s true, I tend to take my children’s actions personally. Even though they’re not. Keeping that in perspective is tremendously helpful.


Issa June 7, 2010 at 3:13 pm

From Kelly Bryson, an NVC instructor, I got the acronym Q-TIP (quit taking it personally). Whenever I need to remind myself that something isn’t about me, I say Q-TIP and can usually almost immediately shift my thinking. I think it helps me, in part, because I don’t actually admonish myself with, “Quit taking it personally!” Instead, I just say this fun, flippant little word, and it helps me get out of the anger I’m building up.


Ericka June 7, 2010 at 7:35 pm

Well said.


katepickle June 7, 2010 at 8:22 pm

This is so spot on… like you I am ok at not taking the run of the mill day to day frustrations as personal slights… but I so quickly seem to fall into the ‘poor me’ thing when it comes to my children. Logically I know they are not doing x y or z to ‘get at me’… just in the moment it often feels like it. Really good lesson in learning to see things for real!


Stephanie Petters June 8, 2010 at 6:53 pm

This was such a wonderful post for me and others to read. We really do need this reminder because sometimes our children’s actions enact a trigger. Since they’ve enacted a trigger in us we go on defense… this is mainly because we’ve gone into taking it personal like you wrote. If we didn’t take it personal we wouldn’t go into defense and would instead go into “working together” mode. Great, great reminder!

I love the Q-tip idea, Issa!


Karen June 8, 2010 at 10:42 pm

The sentence in your post that stood out to me was, “I have a problem settling down at night too, that’s why I do yoga.” Why not do some calming yoga poses with your kids before bed? It might work for them too.


Kayris June 9, 2010 at 8:56 am

@karen–Actually I do. You can read about it here.


Karen June 9, 2010 at 11:36 pm

Haha! Just read that post, and it was very familiar! It’s probably where I got the idea to try yoga in the first place 😉


Jasmine Carlson June 9, 2010 at 10:56 am

What a great thing to keep in mind while parenting. So simple and yet so difficult. I had to use this yesterday as I had “that child” in the grocery store and while I was becoming angry and toting my toddler out to the van I reminded myself that “this happens to everyone” and that he was not personally attacking me or trying to ruin my day he was just expressing his own frustration. Minutes later we were returning in to the grocery store to get him a chocolate milk and me a giant chai tea latte!


Rachel June 9, 2010 at 11:32 pm

this is really timely as I am currently grappling with a toddler and newborn who keep waking each other up. I will be adopting this new mantra and am hoping it will help me stay calm in the wee hours when dealing with 2 boys who won’t sleep!



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