I constantly find myself over-reacting when my kids do annoying things that I KNOW are just ‘normal kid stuff’.
Like the other day, my 4-year old daughter spread toothpaste all over the counter while brushing her teeth. I KNOW it wasn’t on purpose, I KNOW she is just 4 and that’s what 4 year olds do sometimes. Then why did I feel so ANGRY (and how do I stop)?
That is actually the number one question I get asked by moms. So many of us find ourselves over-reacting to our kids’ behaviours and it can be very confusing, and upsetting for EVERYONE involved.
By the way, Anger is not the only type of over-reaction that takes place in these types of situations. Many moms may also feel intense sadness, or numbness when their child misbehaves.
Your ‘preferred’ reaction will depend on your past reactions to the same stressor, and your temperament.
- Fight=Anger, Rage, Yelling
- Flight=Sadness and impulse to escape
When we over-react there are usually a number of things going on.
1. We are Depleted. Depletion means that our emotional, physical and spiritual wellness is compromised due to high expectations and low resources. We expect greatness from ourselves as parents – to stay calm, mindful and supportive in the midst of chaos. And we expect ourselves to be all of that on VERY limited resources (when was the last time you took time for yourself to rest and re-group?)
2. Our child’s behaviour is pushing an emotional button for us. Since Depletion makes us vulnerable, we are much more likely to get triggered in this way when we are exhausted and overwhelmed.
An emotional button means that we have a stuck BELIEF (i.e. I am a bad mom), FEELING (helplessness, inadequacy…), and/or TRAUMA (small-medium-large) that lays under the surface and gets poked at by the annoying things that kids tend to do (bless their little hearts).
If you find that this happens again and again, do a little detective work (do this in-between the triggering moments) – reflect to see if you notice a pattern of what upsets you the most. Is it when you’re not listened to? Or when you feel unloved? These are your clues into what is going on under the surface for you.
3. Our ability to self-regulate our emotions is compromised. Perhaps we never learned how to do it, or maybe we are SO depleted that our Nervous System is stuck in fight-flight mode due to chronic stress (this is extremely common!!).
When this happens the emotional part of our brain (the Amygdala) overpowers the thinking part of our brain (the prefrontal cortex) so that we literarily CAN’T think straight.
The key is to reduce your level of stress with self-care tools so that you can think straight again (this is not rocket science- just do the things that relax you: a walk, cup of tea, break from kids, yoga, meditation, or my new favourite past time- adult colouring books).
- Deep belly breathing – take a slow breath in filling your throat, chest and belly with air. Hold air in for 4 seconds and release VERY slowly.
- Bring ALL of your attention to the physical sensation of the feeling in your body. Stay with it. Stay with it some more. Notice any thoughts, feelings, images and memories that come up as you stay with it (at this point NOTHING will be random- everything that will come up will be related to this experience). Be extremely gentle with what comes up. If the tears come, let them.
- Put a gentle hand on your heart and notice your heart beat.
- Bring your attention to your core (that place behind your belly button)- that is your grounding centre. Connect with it.
- Ground yourself by noticing your feet on the ground, your butt on the seat, your hands on your lap. Pay close attention to how that feels to be connected to the here and now.
I hope this helps.
P.S. This applies to ALL relationships, not just those with your kids.
If you need further help, check out my Online Program for Depleted Moms to reduce your stress level, eliminate Depletion and release stuck beliefs, emotions and traumas.
Lots of love. Take care.