Respond vs React

Have you ever considered the difference between these two words? Ever considered how knowing this difference could possibly change strained relationships in your life?

Well, I never had! Not until I read Have a New Kid by Friday by Kevin Leman. (ok, that totally sounded like a Reading Rainbow book review, but anyway)  I read this book when my 1st born wasn’t quite 3. He’s about to turn 7,  so I’ll save the detailed scholarly review for another day. But although it’s been a few years since I read this, there were/are two things from the book that have stayed with me.

1) After trying the “no eye contact” method for dealing with the 1st born getting out of bed constantly, he slumped his shoulders in defeat and slouched back to bed and stayed there. (whoop whoop!)

2) Respond. Don’t react. There’s a difference.

Leman’s book for desperate parents has some great information and good ideas, but this is one concept for everyone. Learn to respond rather than react .  Oftentimes, parents (or kids/wives/husbands/employees/bosses/students and the list goes on) react rather than respond to our children (or family/husbands/wives/etc). As Leman, writes “our emotions get the better of us, and we speak or act without thinking first.”

So what’s the big difference between the two? Well the Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines react  this way:

1: to exert a reciprocal or counteracting force or influence
2: to change in response to a stimulus
3: to act in opposition to a force or influence
4: to move or tend in a reverse direction
5: to undergo chemical reaction [ever felt like you might spontaneously combust?!]

And respond this way:

1: to say something in return : make an answer 
2b : to show favorable reaction
3: to be answerable

Still not clear? Leman explains it this way, “If the doctor says, ‘You responded to your medication,’ that’s good. If the doctor says, ‘You reacted to your medication,’ that’s bad.”

So when your child does something crazy, like push a playmobil pirate arm band up her nose, don’t fly off the handle and go psycho. That will just end up freaking her out even more which will make it all that much harder to fish out. She already knows it was a bad idea. And instead of shooting down every little hope and dream your child tosses into the air like a balloon (reacting), take a minute to watch it float higher and higher, imagine where it may go, guess how far it will travel, wonder if someone will find it. Hope that it will reach the moon.  Respond.

by Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow


A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.
Proverbs 15:1-3


Over the next few weeks, I’ll be discussing some of my 2012 MORE goals. Stay tuned. 🙂

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