What can I do not be so triggered by my child’s behaviors?
You are in good company because their child’s behavior triggers all parents. This is such an important topic.
What is a trigger?
A trigger is anything we experience in the present that activates feelings of past wounds.
Suppose that as a child, you felt like your parents or siblings didn’t listen to and respect what you said. So the story you told yourself is, “no one listens to me,” You then go through life always looking for evidence to confirm the truth of your belief. When you become a parent, you are triggered when you feel your child isn’t listening to you and doing what you ask them to do. That old wound from the past of not feeling heard or respected is activated, and you feel angry, frustrated, irritated, and resentful. The old, visceral feeling from your past triggers that old story, and suddenly you see your child as the enemy.
When your brain detects a threat, you go into fight or flight mode, and your prefrontal cortex (the reasoning, thinking, and logical part of your brain) goes offline.
You are now in fight or flight mode. You overreact by yelling, threatening, or punishing your child for “not listening” instead of responding and trying to understand why they didn’t pick up their toys.
How do you nurture and begin to heal that triggered part of you?
First, you have to recognize the trigger when it happens. You want to create some space between the trigger and the response of anger or yelling. To do this, notice when you first start to feel the sensations of frustration or anger in your body—the tightness in your chest or the knot in your stomach. As soon as you feel these sensations, you want to create that space by stopping and taking a deep breath. Then blow it out slowly. You can even say, “I am going to take some deep breaths right now to help me calm down.” Also helpful is repeating a mantra while you take deep breaths. “I can get through this; my child isn’t a bad child,” or something that feels right for you.
When we recognize our triggers and interrupt the circuits that take us straight to fight or flight, we can build new circuits that help us understand the triggers and realize that our past doesn’t have to control and rule the present. Read more about triggers in my blog post.