It is because we feel threatened.
From a child?
Or at least from the emotions that are coming up when dealing with a child.
It’s hard to imagine that a child’s behavior could have me feel threatened. But that’s what happens when I react angrily.
It is the fight of the fight or flight response.
Most parents miss this and as a result miss out on addressing the root cause of their anger, impatience or reactivity.
It’s hard to imagine that spilled soup or a small child hitting me could have me feeling threatened and not safe. But that’s what it is.
There has been a threat to my expectations, my control, my ego.
Or there has been a threatening memory triggered. Or all the above.
Don’t believe me? That’s okay. But for those who do, try this. Next time you feel yourself or sense yourself getting angry, reactive or impatient, try this strategy I learned from Conscious Discipline.
Breathe Deeply into your belly for few breaths, with loooong exhales.
Repeat the mantra in your head: “I am safe, I can handle this.”
I figured out that my anger and reactivity come from an insecure place. You see, when I felt secure and confident I didn’t act angrily or reactively, even if my child was being challenging.
Many parents are unaware of this. They think the child “made” them angry from the child’s actions. But what is actually happening is that the child’s behavior is triggering an insecurity inside them.
The child’s behavior is natural and normal but the parent interpretes it in some way that threatens them, not physically but usually their ego, or emotional past.
Changing your beliefs about your child will also help you avoid getting triggered. If you believe your child is messing with you or acting out “on purpose”, the triggers will show up much quicker and more often.
One of the most common threats is a child not listening or being disobedient. This is often taken as disrespect.
But there are other ways to interpret the behavior that don’t equate to disrespect. Can you think of some perfectly good reasons a child might not listen that don’t have anything to do with wanting to disrespect the parent? There are many. Yet, parents can take make it about them, and it take it personally… and then it touches something sore, a wound.
To uncover the real threat, the threatening feeling that is happening inside the parent, we can ask the question. What kind of person gets disrespected and not listened to? Someone who is powerless or unimportant. And this is the meaning that many parents make from a child not listening or obeying. These are the real threats.
It can feel unnerving and panicky to feel powerless and unimportant. It can feel unsafe. It can remind a parent of difficult times of their own when they didn’t feeling important and felt powerless.
The safety I’m talking about is not physical safety, but emotional safety. Yet a parent can react in a triggered way to this emotional threat just the same as they would to a physical threat: with fight or flight type behaviors.
Fight or flight behavior serves the purpose of stopping a threat. It makes sense in certain situations, but it doesn’t make sense most of the time in the home when interacting with kids.
If you are yelling a lot and blaming your children, it is a good indication that you at some level don’t feel safe and are (perhaps inadvertently) resorting to a “power over” kind of parenting as a way to reinstate you the parent into the position that makes you feel safe and comfortable. In control.
But it is only a quick fix. Real safety is not about controlling others. It about being able to feel what you feel, about holding and dealing with your own emotions. It is about self acceptance, self love, and assertiveness.
Would you like to learn about creating your own safety so that you are calmer and less reactive? Contact me and I’ll send you a resource.
Why Parents Get Triggered
It is because we feel threatened.