A common question I’m asked is ‘how do I change my reaction midway when I’m triggered?’
Changing a behavior midway, whether for us or for our children, can be extremely challenging when we’re feeling triggered.
So often, my answer to this question is to just do the best you can in the moment, ride out the situation as best you can, and plan on reflecting on it afterwards.
THEN, take the time, once you’re calm and have a few minutes to yourself to reflect on it.
(I do promise to give you some strategic tips at the end of the article.)
But you can use the experience as a way to grow as a parent, as a way to understand your children better, as a way to create a life that better meets everyone’s needs and sets a different course for your family for the future.
If you do this regularly, not only will it dramatically improve your family life, but it can also lessen your tendency to beat yourself up when you fall short of your ideals, because you’ll know you’re addressing your ‘failings’ constructively.
And speaking of beating yourself up, JUST DON’T DO IT!
(For some support here, read my article The Secret Most Moms Don’t Talk About.)
When you beat yourself up, you don’t have space to learn a different way, because you’re caught up in self-blame, judgment, feeling guilty and self-hatred.
If you have the intention of becoming a better parent and are taking concrete actions to make it happen, you can’t help but keep growing as a parent!
Beating yourself up will only interfere with your progress.
One thing I want to share with you is my famous POTTY TRAINING analogy for growth and learning.
There are 3 steps to learning to use the toilet:
The reason I’m sharing this is that we usually think we’re “failing‟ when we’re in steps 1 or 2. But we’re NOT. Steps 1 and 2 are an integral part of the learning process.
So the next time you catch yourself reacting to your children in a way you don’t like, acknowledge yourself for already being in step 2!
Now let’s get back to the initial question of ‘how do I change my reaction midway when I’m triggered?’
Here are several suggestions of things you can do:
Talk about how sometimes when we’re upset we end up saying and doing things that we regret later, things that don’t help the situation, and that it’s good to have a plan to prevent that from happening. Talk about what your own strategy is, and maybe they’ll also want to come up with one of their own.
For example your strategy could be to say 'I need a time-out otherwise I'm going to say or do something I'll regret.' And to then step away from the situation, maybe go to the bathroom, to another room, step outside for 5 minutes, or go make tea (or definitely coffee in my case!)
I know this is not always possible to take a time-out with little ones, but see if you can come up with a strategy that would work for you and your family. It could be putting on music and dancing. Something to disengage from the situation and give space to what you're feeling.
An example from my life:
I experienced a pretty dramatic version of this, when I used to struggle with intense PMS feelings for about one full day a month, which were really activated by my little ones. It felt like I was possessed, as my reactions were so extreme. So I talked with my daughters about it, when it was NOT happening. I told them what happens to me, that I don’t mean anything I say nor the ways I react on those days, and that they really can’t believe a word that comes out of my mouth on those days. I also told them that I wanted to keep a distance from them on those days to protect them from me. As soon as my oldest got old enough to stay home alone with them, I would leave the house when those feelings would come on, knowing that everyone was better off if I spent 2 hours in the coffee shop instead of being home.
By talking with our children about our experiences of being triggered, and finding proactive solutions to handle the situations when it happens, we get to teach our children an incredibly valuable life skill which will serve them in all their relationships and for the rest of their lives.
For a thorough discussion of Clean Parenting™, the parenting approach I teach, request my FREE report, The Almost Magical Formula For Surprising Ease and Harmony in Your Family While Fully Honoring Your Children’s Spirits. It describes the four principles which when used together, truly lead to astounding ease and harmony in families.
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