Anyone who is a parent already knows that parenting is one of the most demanding roles we get to experience in life! But why does it have to be so challenging? Why is it that, no matter how positive our intentions and how much we really love our kids, we react the way we do? Why do we find it difficult to respond in a calm, confident, clear, and loving way when we know that's what our kids really need?
It is perfectly normal to believe that it's our child's behavior that makes us feel the way we do, and may justify why we get upset. But I'm here to tell you there's something else going on, and that our child's behavior is simply setting it off!
I have learned what I believe to be the biggest secret to understanding and solving these relationship challenges between parents and their kids. Stated simply, here is the secret:
Our child's behavior triggers our own "unfinished business."
Based on brain research, this is what we now understand about emotional triggers:
- A trigger is a specific person, event or behavior that initiates an automatic impulse or reaction that sends us into fight, flight, or freeze (also called “survival mode”).
- No matter how good our intention is, when we are triggered we cannot respond in a way that is rational and calm.
- Everyone has emotional triggers, but they vary from person to person, based primarily on how we were treated and brought up as children.
To understand these triggers, think about your child being really upset or angry in public, acting in a way that frustrates or embarrasses you. Your automatic reaction might be to get visibly upset, or even quietly angry; you might feel compelled to yell at them, get out of there immediately, or give them whatever they want to make them stop. It may seem like a perfectly natural reaction to get upset when our child acts in a way that we don't like, right?
But do you ever wonder why someone else is not even phased by a particular behavior that sends you through the roof? Or why there are times when you can handle what your child is doing, but there are other times you totally shut down and lose your composure?
It’s common to feel these automatic impulses more often if we grew up in an environment that was not nurturing or loving. These triggers are personal, and bring up our own “unfinished business” -- that is, the unresolved emotions, thoughts, and beliefs that get stimulated by something in the environment. They bring up parts of us that feel unloved, unsupported, and perhaps disrespected.
But no matter how strong these emotional triggers may seem in the moment, they are also a huge opportunity for self-awareness and personal growth. And, you can transform them!
When I understood this one, very important function of our human psychology and physiology, it turned my parenting around. I took the time to really understand how our brain is wired to react, and discovered what needs to happen to rewire and become the calm, loving, confident parent we truly want to be!
I found that taking responsibility for and moving through these emotional triggers really is the KEY to being calm, thinking clearly, setting limits that make sense, and coming up with creative, win-win opportunities and solutions with our kids.