I’m a mom of twin six-year-old boys and a 1-year-old daughter. The twins love to build things with legos. They have a table where the legos are that is out of reach of their younger sister. The blocks are supposed to stay on the table, but I am constantly finding them on the floor. The other day I stepped on a small sharp lego, and the pain in my foot was so intense that I totally lost it with the boys. I yelled at them so loud I woke the baby from her nap.Help, I’m usually patient with them, but some days I just lose it and yell.
Thank you for a question that every parent can relate to. Why are we triggered by the pain of stepping on a sharp lego, a messy house, a whiny kid, hitting, or not listening? If the pain of stepping on that sharp lego made your head feel like it was going to explode, you are not alone. Welcome to the club of every parent I know. We all get triggered, myself included.
Here is what’s important to understand. Triggers aren’t bad; they tell us important information about ourselves. When the pain of the sharp lego digging into your foot triggered you, it was probably something that you had to shut down when you were growing up.
What do I mean by this? Think about what would have happened when you were growing up if you had left something on the floor that caused injury to someone else. When I was growing up, I was either physically punished or sent to my room if I left something on the floor that caused injury to another person, even if it was a small plastic lego piece. It was a traumatic experience for me. That action wasn’t met with connection, understanding, and validation. It resulted in shame, pain, and aloneness.
Here is a bit of the neuroscience of triggers. These traumatic experiences are stored differently in our brains, and when something reminds us of that traumatic event, our brain and body respond as if they were in the moment again. The circuit that the experience activates (trigger) can cause an emotional reaction even before a person realizes why they have become upset. We are yelling before we realize why.
What can you do?
- Consider: “What am I being triggered by in my child that I had to shut down in myself?
- Work on lengthening the time between trigger and response by taking a few deep breaths.
- If you lose it and yell, repair. “I’m working on staying calm; when I yell, it’s not your fault. I love you.
Connect the Neurons:
Triggers are traumatic experiences that are stored differently in our brains. When that circuit is activated, we respond as if we are in the moment again. When you are triggered, a pause with several deep breaths will help you interrupt that circuit so you can respond and not react.
To help you better understand your triggers I’ve written two articles all about triggers: The Secret To Understanding Your Triggers and Why Understanding Your Parenting Triggers Is Important.