Tag Archives: triggers

Dec. ’18 Q&A – Big Emotions, Angry Outbursts and a Must Read

Handling Big Emotions and Understanding the Behavior

Q. We had an episode with our 5 1/2 yr. old son. For the past 2 years, we have tried every approach. Our son is smart but immature. We feel he lacks confidence and tends to hold things in rather than talk. I tried to get to the root cause but he still won’t budge (one might say stubborn). Tonight he was off the wall jumping on chairs, interrupting when I had someone over and had to help them work. No matter how many times my husband or I ask him to stop jumping on chairs, he would say “no never”. He has a temper – will hit, throw, slam doors, spit and call us “stupid” or say “never” when we’re explaining how we want him to stop hitting and start listening. However, his tantrums have become less frequent and recovering has become quicker except tonight. Usually he’ll go through the tantrum and then start crying. If we try to challenge him and he’s in the mood, he’ll do it.  But most of the time, he’ll say, no let’s do something totally different or I can’t or don’t know how. If I say I’ll show you, then he’ll whine and say he’s a baby. He always has a comeback. What do you think?

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When Your Kids Push Your Buttons

We all know the feeling. Our child says or does that certain something, we see red and react in ways we regret. We feel out of control, blame the child, and set up our next power struggle. We “go on automatic” and lose our maturity and authority. But we have a choice. We can either punish our child for pushing our buttons or take a look at what our buttons are, why we react the way we do, and take responsibility for our behavior—like an adult.

You know your button has been pushed when:

  • You engage in the “Road Rage of Parenting”
  • You hear your mother or father saying those words you swore you never would
  • You feel enraged, hopeless, guilty, resentful, etc.
  • You catastrophize and project your child into the future
  • You know you could never have gotten away with what your child just did

Our child’s behavior triggers an old wound. Our buttons were planted long ago from messages we took in from our parents’ reactions to us. Those old painful emotions get tapped, it hurts, and we retaliate—but we don’t realize what’s happening. To stop this automatic reaction, first we must recognize that our reactions are caused by our own perceptions.

We believe that our child’s behavior causes our feelings and reactions. “You make me so mad. How many times do I have to yell before you’ll listen?” The unintended message sent is you are responsible for my emotions and my behavior. We leave out a critical piece—the assumptions we make.

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The Power of Waiting
Waiting to cool
No matter the child, no matter the situation, waiting for emotions to cool and for the situation to pass, can make all the difference in your ability to connect.

The following is a story from the mom of an Aspergers child:

As we drove to school one Monday morning, out of the blue my ten year old son said, “Mum, I want to say sorry for what happened on Thursday.”

My son is an ‘Aspiekid’ – he has traits of Aspergers, meaning he was born with a different kind of ‘wiring’ in the brain than most of us. One result of this is that he sometimes gets very distressed about things that others would consider insignificant or even ‘stupid’ to get upset about. He finds it harder than most people to move past these upsets, and when this happens I call it “getting stuck”.

‘What happened on Thursday’ was that he got “stuck” on a very small additional homework task, became very distressed and was emotionally and mentally unable to complete the task. Instead, after about an hour of distress, unable to calm down any other way, he fell asleep.

When I first began learning Connective Parenting, I used to think it didn’t always work, because Bonnie says that children respond to fairness and logic – while a child in an Aspie meltdown certainly does not. But I was making a mistake – skipping over the second step in the connective process. The first step is to acknowledge my child’s difficulty, the next is to wait – for as long as it takes. I learned the hard way that it doesn’t matter how long it takes, because there is simply no point trying to move to the next step – working out solutions – until the agitated person (child or adult) can get calm. For my son, that often takes a long time, but no matter how long it is, I simply have to wait.

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Misbehavior = Mis(taken)behavior

Your child’s behavior is only the tip of the iceberg. Don’t take it literally. It has emotional triggers hidden beneath the surface. This is where your attention is to be directed. When we see only the behavior and decide it is either good or bad and should be either rewarded or punished, we are missing the boat—actually the boat will hit the huge section of iceberg beneath the water’s surface and sink. Our parenting culture is programed to look only at behavior and try to change it to suit us. This is manipulative and teaches children to be manipulative.

All behavior is perfect. It reflects and tells us how our children are doing. We should be grateful for it. If behavior is age and temperament-appropriate, even if it’s annoying, it tells us our child is fine. If it is inappropriate, out of control, violent, etc. it tells us our child is having a problem. So when we see the behavior as “misbehavior”, we see it as bad and therefore have to change it, typically by using punishment. But we have actually misunderstood the nature of the behavior. We have mistaken it for something intentional. It is neither good nor bad but it does tell us if our child is needing help, is dealing with internal problems, unmet needs, upsets that provoke the behavior. If we “miss the boat” and see only the behavior, it gets worse and more dramatic in an effort to finally be heard.

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