Why is it that our children, the people we love the most in the world, can trigger us so easily?
We all have hot buttons—situations or events or even words our kids say to which we react strongly, or even overreact. One second, we feel calm and at peace. The next, we are flooded with emotions and spinning out of control.
Often, we feel ourselves behaving in a way that is irrational. The triggers might even seem absurd. We cannot pinpoint exactly why we feel so angry over seemingly trivial things that our children do or say, but nonetheless, our emotions are hot.
Other times, our triggers feel justified. We can support and justify our anger with example after example. Nonetheless, we dislike feeling so angry and out of control and would rather respond to our children calmly.
Why is this? Why can things our children say and do make us overreact? And what can we do about it?
Fortunately, when we understand why triggers occur, we can take steps to eliminate them so that we can...
It's hard for anyone, much less a child, to take constructive feedback and listen to reason or act in a way that is logical when they are flooded with negative emotions.
You likely have personal experience with this—when you've been so upset that you just couldn't think straight.
There is science to this—a reason you cannot think straight when you're flooded with emotions.
The part of your brain that is emotional and reactive is very different than the part of your brain that is systematic and logical. You cannot tap into the logical part of your brain when the emotional, reactive part of your brain has taken over.
Your thoughts and your emotions always match.
When you are experiencing a huge, negative doomsday, destructive emotion, you are naturally flooded with equally catastrophic thoughts.
When you understand that it isn't possible to have a reasonable discussion when emotions are running high, you can change your approach...
Question: During a play date, my friend’s seven-year-old daughter announced: “I’m fat! Look at my tummy! Why does it stick out?”
We were all horrified, especially because she is tiny—maybe even underweight. I think she was just saying it to see our reaction. What should our reaction have been?
Answer: Here is a great mantra to remember when children say something concerning:
Stay calm. Be curious.
Stay calm because sometimes the adult’s reaction is much, much worse than the problem, and it gives the child too much attention for something that might not need attention. Beyond that, responding in horror to issues of body size or looks—either through gasps or words—communicates to the child that you believe being “fat” (or “ugly” or whatever the word might be) is something to be terribly upset by—and this can cause a cascade of problems down the line.
What if the child later struggles with weight?...
As much as we might wish to avoid it, arguing with our spouses in front of our children happens.
This does not mean we are bad parents. In fact, if we can remain calm and respectful during a disagreement, it can even be healthy for children to witness us work through a touchy subject—especially when there is a resolution on the other side.
When couples have healthy rules of engagement for conflicts, children are able to form healthy conflict resolution models for themselves.
Healthy conflict involves:
If you can achieve some (or sometimes all) of this, you are a conflict resolution rock star.
But what happens when parents get into a fight they wish their children hadn't seen?
Our thought is this ...
First, it happens.
At some point or another, someone has assigned you a positive attribute, and you secretly, shamefully, believed that you fell short.
One of my son's friends is known for being outgoing. When he went away to college, though, he felt shy and insecure.
People used to say things to him like, “It’s so easy for you to make friends!”
Inside, he felt like he was struggling to find a social group. He thought that maybe he was a fraud—that he didn’t really have this great friend-making attribute that everyone had assigned to him.
When you tell your children that they are something—whether that is a positive or negative thing—you risk simultaneously and inadvertently telling them that they cannot be something else.
This comes at a risk. A child who is told that she is smart will freak out a little bit (or a lot) on the inside when she cannot tackle a problem, or when she makes an error.
I hope no one finds out my secret, ...
Psychologist Carol Dweck coined the terms “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset,” which describe the beliefs people have about learning and intelligence.
A simplified explanation of these terms is this: Those with a fixed mindset believe that intelligence is fixed. A person is smart or not smart. A person is good at math or bad at math.
Those with a growth mindset believe that they can get smarter or better at math.
The latter belief—the growth mindset belief—encourages people to put in extra time and effort.
Those with a growth mindset understand that they can learn and achieve more.
Adopting a growth mindset is important for children because it allows them to move past their current challenges and grow. It shows them that they are not stuck in a box, but rather can put in time and effort to achieve something that is important to them.
We can help children believe in their ability to learn and grow by asking them to share stories about things they have...