In my coaching practice I often hear from clients that they are convinced that their children are triggering them. They are sure that their children are deliberately looking for and pushing their buttons.
Parents tell me that these buttons are about lack of respect, not being listened to, not doing what they are told, or lying and rude behaviour. They tell me that when their children push these ‘buttons’ they feel frustrated, annoyed, and angry; they yell, scream and even have their own temper tantrums of rage.
Many of you are probably nodding your head right now as you have come face to face with these experiences – you understand these reactions.
But what if I told you that your children are not deliberately pushing your buttons – that they aren’t seeking them out and consciously pushing them to get a reaction out of you. What if I told you that they are simply behaving the only way they know in that moment, and that your reaction has almost nothing to do with their behaviour?
One of the biggest myths in parenting is that our child’s behaviour makes us act a certain way. I am sure you have a puzzled look on your face right now so let me explain.
A trigger is an emotional reaction to a situation. When someone says or does something that we don’t like, we have a choice of how to act. We may tell the person we don’t like that, we may simply walk away or we may react.
When we react with yelling or screaming or in an aggressive way this is a clear sign that an old wound has been touched and reactivated – most likely a childhood wound that was never healed. Our reaction doesn’t stem from what is happening in this moment, rather it comes from this old wound, or a compound of wounds and emotions.
Let me give you an example.
A client, Carrie, had constant battles with her daughter about what clothes to wear. One day she found herself angry and yelling at her daughter because she would not wear the special dress she had bought her for a family party. Her daughter yelled back that she hated the dress and refused the wear it. Carrie remembers standing in front of her daughter in a rage trying to figure out how she was going to pull the dress over her daughters head. Realizing that she could not force her and also feeling that her emotions were out of control, Carrie decided to let it go and she walked away.
The incident bothered her though and in the coaching session we deconstructed what had happened. Carrie soon realized that feelings of resentment from her childhood, along with some shame and guilt were actually at the root of this incident.
As a child Carrie always got hand-me-downs from her older sister and rarely got new clothes, and never party dresses. When she bought the dress for her daughter she realized she had really bought it for her inner child. When she remembered the moment in the store she admitted that her daughter had just shrugged her shoulders when she asked her if she liked it. She bought it anyway because she thought it was adorable and she hoped that her daughter would change her mind.
Carrie began to understand that part of her emotions was resentment for her daughter that she didn’t like the dress and there was also some feelings of rejection of what her inner child liked. We also explored how Carrie was worried and anxious about what other people would say if her daughter wasn’t all dressed up like the other children who were coming to this party. She didn’t want to be embarrassed by her child’s ordinary clothes and be thought of as a bad parent.
Carrie also began to recognize that she was creating this battle over her daughter’s clothes by buying her clothes she really didn’t like. Carrie saw how her inner child was picking out the outfits with little to no regard for what her daughter actually liked – no wonder they would fight every morning!
Do you see how we can create these nasty cycles over our childhood emotions? Can you appreciate that our reaction comes from within us – from our wounds and feelings of guilt, shame and fear and really has nothing to do with our child’s behaviour? It is only when we stop and ask ourselves where these reactions and emotions come from can we really start to appreciate our responsibility in our child’s behaviour.
This is how the triggers can be the teachers. Each trigger and reaction is telling you that something needs to be looked at. Every time you feel frustrated, disappointed, mad or darn right angry, it’s an opportunity to pause and go inward and see what’s really there. Then we can offer our inner child some love, see her pain and acknowledge the feelings and wounds that are there.
This is how our children can be our greatest teachers, our mirrors, because they show us what we need to work on! They reveal to us, through our reactions, what we need to take care of. This is how we can grow and transform as parents.
The relationship with our children is the most powerful relationship we will ever have and it can transform our lives, and this planet, by embracing it and the journey into conscious parenting!
TRY IT OUT!
Next time you react to your child with frustration, yelling or rage, stop and ask yourself what is really going on. Go deep and see what is happening within you and your inner child. What wounds are being reactivated in this moment? What fears are coming up? Are you feeling shame and guilt about something?
Give yourself love and compassion and heal those parts – because if you don’t I guarantee you they will reveal themselves again, and again until you are forced to attend to them.
P.S. I also wrote a blog about a hair issue I had with my daughter and I did a similar deconstruction that showed what was really behind my angry reaction. Click here to read it.
I am a Certified Integral Life Coach and I offer coaching programs and services to support and guide you in your parenting and life. The programs I offer are transformational and will make a huge impact on you and your family. Click here to learn more!