Have you noticed that there are certain things that your children do that unleash the dragon inside you? Maybe your dragon emerges when it comes time to put your children to bed at night. Or perhaps is it after you have asked them for the fifteenth time to put down their phone and they are still snap-chatting away. Maybe its when you ask them to do their homework and they tell you "I will do it in five minutes"! and an hour later they are still sitting in front of the TV.
Let’s be honest, everyone reading this can relate to that moment when our children do something that triggers the dragon inside us and we erupt screaming, threatening, and throwing our hands up in exasperation.
The million dollar question is how do we stop being triggered, so that we can have harmony in our homes.
Try the exercise below to gain better insight as to why YOU are triggered and understand the connection between your child's behaviour and your emotional reactivity....
I FEEL TRIGGERED WHEN ............
(For illustrative purposes, I will use the example of your child failing a test, but you can insert whatever your main trigger is with your child to make it more personal)
MY CHILD FAILS HIS TEST
ANGER, FRUSTRATION, THREATS, PUNISHMENT, OVERINVOLVEMENT IN FUTURE HOMEWORK
I FEEL TRIGGERED WHEN HE FAILS HIS TEST BECAUSE....
(this is where you look inward and dig deeper......Why do you think you feel these things? What are the underlying fears?)
I'M SCARED MY SON WILL AMOUNT TO NOTHING IN LIFE
I'M SCARED HE WONT BE SUCCESSFUL AND ATTEND A GOOD UNIVERSITY
I'M SCARED HE NEVER LEARN RESPONSIBILITY
IM SCARED HIS SENSE OF SELF WILL BE DESTROYED
I'M SCARED HE WILL GROW UP TO BE LAZY
I'M SCARED HE WILL NOT BE SUCCESSFUL
I'M SCARED HE WILL NOT BE HAPPY
So what is the root of your emotional reactivity ?
If you review the list above, you will see that all the responses spring from one source, fear. Parenting today is rooted in fear. We are so fearful of the future - will our children get into the right universities, what if they don’t fit in, what if they are simply ordinary and what if they are not successful in life.
Anytime we are critical of ourselves or others, we are operating out of fear and fear leads to a home filled with stress, anxiety, screaming, threats, unhappy parents and unhappy kids.
If you ask a group of parents what is your number one wish for your children, the unanimous response is “I just want them to be happy”. Parenting from fear can never result in happy kids.
Whenever fear hides behind our various masks, it causes us to displace onto others what we are feeling, perhaps through blame, shame, anger, judgement, jealousy or control.
When there is no fear, we never react. Instead we are able to formulate a mindful response to the present moment. The difference between reacting and responding is huge. Whereas reacting is a knee-jerk unconscious, highly emotional, habitual way of addressing an external situation, responding mindfully is thoughtful, calm, deep-feeling, and has no emotional backlash.
Our children are the perfect catalysts when it comes to awakening our fears. We are so deeply attached to our children that they are easily able to trigger our primal need to protect them. Because we constantly fear for their safety, happiness and well-being, we are in a constant state of 'reactivity' to them. If we aren't afraid that they will grow up to be a failure, we are afraid they will grow up to be disrespectful, lazy, unhappy or unkind. No matter the reason, fear is the underlying emotion under all of our reactivity to our children. It's what leads us to yell at them, scream at them, guilt them, shame, humiliate and punish them.
The good news is that as we become aware of the undercurrent of fear in all of our reactions, especially to our children, we can begin to examine our old ways of thinking and relating to the world, and slowly begin to replace the archaic with more mindful and evolved ways of responding to the present situation.