We all get triggered. There are behaviours that set our teeth on edge or make us feel as if the Incredible Hulk is about to bust out and trash the house in a green rage. Here are just some of the things that drive lots of parents crazy:
- Hitting another child
- Refusing to cooperate
- Sounding ungrateful
What sends one person into a fit though, may not bother another. That is because the behaviour itself does not cause our emotions. It is how we interpret that behaviour. This interpretation stems from the beliefs we hold about ourselves and the world. Digging deep here is how we weaken the power these triggers hold on us.
We know we may be getting triggered when we feel
These are some pretty powerful emotions. You may know from reading or watching other content that I have produced, that attempting to be rational and therefore make good decisions is rather impossible when we are in the throes of big feelings. It’s true for kids and it’s true for us. Move through the emotions first. Then work on solutions and a prevention plan later. I am including some of the strategies I teach for parenting while triggered.
Common beliefs that affect our ability to parent well
- “I can’t handle this.”
- “My child doesn’t respect me”
- “No one appreciates what I do.”
- “My kids are just ___.”
Note: beliefs are difficult to uncover and replace on our own. An outside perspective makes it easier. It’s like trying to see the tip of our nose without a mirror. We have a sense of it, but it’s not a clear view.
When we identify those beliefs, they start to lose some of their power.
What to do about the triggers?
Begin to notice when you’re feeling triggered. How are you feeling physically? What happened just before you felt a reaction? What interpretation did you place on the event(s) leading up to your reaction? What message/story did you tell yourself about it? What might your belief be?
In the moment
- Reflect: It’s not the behaviour, it’s my interpretation that is triggering me.
- Remind yourself: your child loves and respects you, wants to cooperate and that you are capable.
- Respond with empathy for yourself and your child.
After the moment
- Reflect on what your and your child’s needs were.
- Create a plan to meet those needs in the future.
- Teach, learn or practice the skills either of you are missing.
- Make it a habit to look for early warning signs that you may be getting triggered. The sooner you can catch the reaction starting, the sooner you can address your needs and beliefs, thereby preventing the reaction.
* Mantra to repeat: Choose to respond, not react.
Too tough to do in the moment, yet?
- Pause and breathe deeply.
- Take a break if possible.
- Look for immediate solutions for some relief. “Let’s come back to this game later.”
- Commit to reflecting on the above questions when you’re feeling less reactive.
Use some of these tips and let me know how it goes!