In our family, we have a term we sometimes refer to called the Wronger Rule.
In my opinion, the show, Curb Your Enthusiasm, with the grumpy and hilarious, Larry David, co-creator of Seinfeld, is based on the Wronger Rule.
Every episode begins with Larry being "wronged" by someone; the new girlfriend of his buddy at the movies that reveals her jerkiness to Larry when she thinks he is a stranger; the woman he courteously lets off the elevator before himself that beats him to the doctor's office, signing in first and causing him to have an exceptionally long wait; the rude and offensive Chinese food delivery driver.
The rest of the episode is inevitably about Larry seeking justice and ultimately, behaving like a jack-hole; trumping the original wrong behavior and becoming "wronger".
This plays out all the time in our family and frankly, in life...
The 9 year old invades the 17 year old's room as an attempt to get his big brother's attention. The annoyed 17 year old reacts by pinning his 9 year old brother down and giving him a "letter", (poking him in the chest over and over again...."Dear Alec, I promise not to go into your room uninvited, behave in an annoying way and refuse to get out. Love, Cory).
The 17 year old took it too far; poked too hard; topped it off with the spit slurping thing over the 9 year old's face; leaving the 9 year old in tears.
The 17 year old is now wronger and the initial trespassing of the 9 year old has been completely voided out as if it never happened.
This is a classic example of the Wronger Rule.
As parents, we frequently face becoming wronger when our kids act out...
- your 3 year old throws a full blown temper tantrum at Target and you squeeze his arm and whisper in that super scary voice to knock it off, followed up with threats; (rather than remaining calm, buckling the SMALL child into the cart, checking out in lightning speed and getting the child home for lunch and a nap)
- your 14 year old daughter acts hormonal and pissy towards you after a long day at school where everything seemed to go wrong for her, unbeknownst to you, and you turn it into a screaming match all about respect, "You will not speak to me like that after all that I do for you..." (instead of calmly letting her know that it will be a technology free night consisting of an early bedtime b/c her behavior is saying that her body needs rest)
Allow the person that was originally wrong to be the one that suffers the consequences without reducing yourself. Yes, this involves patience. Frequently, karma gets called in as well. It can take time for karma to do her job - but inevitably, she always comes through - even if it's years later.
Being human is messy business. Sometimes we act wrong. Sometimes they act wrong.
It's easy to operate from a place of grace and integrity when we are surrounded with people that act "right". However, that isn't the way this human experience works. Whether it's your toddler throwing a tantrum due to sleep deprivation combined with coveting a very cool Matchbox car or your hormonal teen behaving rudely after a socially stressful day... like the bumper sticker says, "sh!t happens". And often, we find ourselves standing in it - ick.
The bumper sticker should say, "How do you behave after sh!t happens?"
So remember, when that person "does ya wrong", remember the Wronger Rule; handle it with patience, elegance and integrity.
And if you forget what that looks like in the "triggered" moment, just think:
"What is the opposite of what Larry would do?"