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Mountains and Molehills

by Maxine
Posted August 19 2010 12:02pm
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There is an old saying;
“Don’t Make a Mountain out of a Molehill”.
John Fox, The Book of Martyrs, 1570

It’s wise advice, but many of us fail to take it. Have you ever noticed that some of the biggest fights you’ve ever had started with something that was, if you really admit it, pretty insignificant? Maybe someone forgot to close the cereal box or the wrong brand of soap was bought – whatever it was, it was probably trivial in the grand scheme.

In the book Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift, a young man travels to strange worlds, one of which finds him a giant. In that land there is a great war between two countries, Lilliput and Blefuscu. When Gulliver asks what started the war the answer is clear, “They cook their eggs wrong”.

“People often make things bigger than they are when they let their emotions overwhelm them and stop thinking things out,” says Greg Lubimiv, a Parenting Expert at The Phoenix Centre for Children and Families.

As well, an exaggerated response may come because there are other things that have happened.

For example, Jim comes in the door from work and finds a meal waiting for him, but there is no milk for the tea. Jim starts to yell at Janice, saying she had all day to get some milk and knows he won’t drink tea without it. Janice runs crying to her room, taking the baby with her and Jim sits in front of his meal, upset but no longer hungry. What Janice doesn’t know and Jim has already forgotten is that the absence of milk was really a molehill. However, there were a number of things that happened to Jim which led to his explosion. Getting a reprimand at the office, being caught in a traffic jam, which made him late for an important meeting and ripping his favourite coat on a fence churned up feelings of anger, frustration and worry. Jim came into his house like a volcano that finally erupted. It seems, also, that it is more common to make big issues out of little ones with those we are closest too, perhaps because that is where we actually feel the safest to let out our pent up feelings.

Our experts have come up with some strategies to help you and your partner keep things in perspective. First, take a deep breath and count to 10 before you say or do anything; or take a ‘time out’ and physically remove yourself. Once you are feeling calm, then try to deal with the issues If you notice your partner might need to calm down first suggest they use a time out or other relaxation technique that will make it easier for you to have a discussion.

You can then ask yourself or your partner the following questions.

  1. On a scale of 1 to 10, how important will this be tomorrow? (1 being not important and 10 being absolutely critical.)
  2. Is there anything else that was bothering me before this happened?
  3. What is the solution to this problem/issue and will my being upset lead to the solution or create more problems?


Do you sometimes find yourself making mountains out of molehills? How do you manage when that happens? Leave a comment below and share your story with other parents just like you!


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