STAYING PRESENT WHEN TRIGGERED BY YOUR CHILD'S BEHAVIOR


When we're triggered by our child's behavior, it is so easy for us to forget to remain present. Remaining present is important for us as parents because it allows us to fully feel, process, and learn from our parenting triggers. And it is important for our children because it reinforces connection and models healthy coping skills.

The thing is, sometimes (for me: oftentimes), we don't even recognize that we aren't fully present! When we start to become dysregulated, we may physically be with our child, but emotionally and mentally we're distant and unavilable

SIGNS YOU'RE NOT FULLY PRESENT
  • You distract yourself or dissociate (example: scrolling your phone with no purpose)
  • You think "My child will always act this way."
  • You worry about how this will affect your later plans.
  • You avoid your child when you're triggered (longer than it takes for you to reclaim your calm).
  • You count down the minutes until nap time/Dad or Mom gets home/bedtime.
These signals are just that: signals. Counting down the minutes until nap time is a signal that you're struggling to remain present. Scrolling your phone is a signal that you're having a hard time being fully present. When you notice these signals, you don't have to beat yourself up! You can recognize the struggle and be patient and compassionate with yourself as you work to come back to this moment.

HOW TO STAY PRESENT WHEN YOU'RE TRIGGERED AS A PARENT
  • Put your phone away and out of reach.
  • Ask, "What does my child need in this moment?"
  • Ask "What do I need in this moment?"
  • Connect with your child in ways that will help calm you both.
  • Breathe slowly, pausing to notice how your stomach, chest, and lungs feel as you breathe in and out
MANTRAS FOR STAYING PRESENT WHEN YOU'RE TRIGGERED
  • "This is not an emergency, I am safe, my child is safe."
  • "Peace begins with me."
  • "I have everything I need for this moment."
  • "Love is patient and kind. I am patient and kind with myself and my child."
  • "Our love is stronger than our struggle."
  • "Holy Spirit, you are welcome here."
  • "A gentle answer turns away wrath." 
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And here's why you want to do this hard work: because this moment is fleeting! While it may be hard, overwhelming, messy, and unpleasant, it's a part of YOUR story - don't miss it!

LOOKING FOR MORE HELP?
These books helped me cultivate peace and learn to regulate my own emotions when triggered by specific behaviors.

   






MINDSET SHIFT: YOUR CHILD IS NOT THE ENEMY

You've probably heard the parenting advice of "Pick your battles", right? I totally get what it means - don't sweat the small stuff, be choosy in what's really important. The intent behind this oft-cited advice is good: Be mindful of what boundaries and limits are nonnegotiable and when it's wise to model flexibility.

But can we talk about what the underlying message reveals: that your child is the enemy.

And that's just not true. Your child is a human with free will, a unique personality, their own outlook on life, and their own opinions about....well, lots of things! And they aren't your enemy, and you certainly aren't their enemy. In fact - you should be their greatest ally!

This mindset shift doesn't mean you automatically agree with whatever your child wants. But it does mean that you work on teaching your child critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, and what healthy conflict looks like. 

WHAT THIS LOOKS LIKE:

👉🏼 Nurturing a young child through a transition rather than expecting them to suck it up because you said so.

👉🏼 Giving children choices within your boundary, which allows them to feel autonomy and age-appropriate control.
👉🏼 Using "Yes, and" instead of "no" to empathize while holding a limit with gentle firmness.

👉🏼 Problem-solving with your child to find a plan that works for both of you, which we teach in our Collaboration + Cooperation workshop.

👉🏼 Welcoming your child's questions and evaluation of your values and goals, and with older children, inviting them to identify and adopt family values with you.

Our words matter. They hold the power of life and death! And as parents, we hold the pen that writes the story of our relationship with our children. Let's shift our mindset to a collaborative, partnering, life-giving paradigm rather than holding onto an old paradigm that not only fails to serve us well, but positions us against our children.

MINDSET SHIFT: MISTAKES HELP US LEARN


MINDSET SHIFT: MISTAKES HELP US LEARN
First, let me say that it is completely normal to hope that our children don't make the same mistakes we did. In an ideal world, they would learn from our stories and make wise decisions. But that's just not reality, and when we use "I don't want you to make the same mistakes I did" as a foundation for how we teach and interact with our children, it robs them of the opportunity to make their own mistakes and to learn and grow from them. 

How about this mindset shift: our children are going to make mistakes. Maybe a lot of them. Maybe big ones. Maybe mistake that have lasting consequences. As we teach and guide our children, let's cultivate a relationship where they feel safe to come to us with their mistakes, and where they know that making mistakes is a normal part of being human. It's how we learn and grow from them that really matters.

WHY THIS MINDSET MATTERS

FEAR-BASED VS. GRACE-BASED
When we parent from the place of "I hope my child doesn't make the same mistakes I did" we're parenting from fear, which usually leads to attempts to control our child's behavior. When we switch our mindset to knowing that our child will make mistakes, and having grace in those moments, we empower them to learn through the consequences of their choices and mistakes.

PARENT-CENTERED VS. CHILD CENTERED
When we focus on our mistakes we're centering our parenting choices on the wrong thing: us. While our children can certainly learn from our mistakes, the way we parent them should be centered on their personality, temperament, abilities, and needs, not our past regrets.

PERFECTIONISM VS. GROWTH MINDSET
You may not intend to set a standard of perfection, but our kiddos can easily interpret it that way. They hear "I don't want you to make mistakes." or "Mistakes equal regret." or "I don't know how to help you through mistakes." Perfectionism is the worst standard we can have for our children because it is completely unattainable! Rather, we should embrace mistakes as a necessary part of learning, and foster a growth mindset in our children to help them learn and grow from their mistakes.

WHAT THIS MIGHT SOUND LIKE

When we hold in tension high expectations for our children, and deep understanding and compassion for when they don't meet those expectations, we nurture a relationship of trust and connection that prepares them to handle their own mistakes with compassion and confidence.

HOW TO RESPOND TO A CHILD YELLING?

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QUICK TIP: MATCH MY VOICE
Repeat after me: Yelling and screaming are developmentally normal! That doesn't mean it's easy to deal with or that we ignore it. When children scream or yell, there's usually a reason why. And it isn't hard to guess: they want to make sure they are heard.

In responding to their yell, affirm that you can tell they want to be heard. Guide them towards using a softer voice, and let them know their words are important to you. You might try:

👉🏼 "Woah! I can tell you really want to be heard. Do you want to take your outside voice outside or do you want to use your inside voice so I can understand your words better?" 

👉🏼 "Wow! That was so loud I couldn't understand you. Your words are important to me, will you say them again with a softer voice so I understand everything you want me to know?"

👉🏼 "Your volume is turned up so loud! Let's turn it down so I can understand you better." (Pretend to turn down their volume with an imaginary knob.)

TEACH WITH TOOLS:

We also recommend teaching with tools, like Voices are Not for Yelling:  and Little Dinos Don't Yell: (FREE on Kindle Unlimited)

IT'S OKAY TO EXPLAIN "WHY' TO YOUR KIDS


QUICK TIP: IT'S OKAY TO EXPLAIN WHY
Raise your hand if you enforce a boundary and your child asks "why?". 🙋‍♀️ It's so easy to just say "Because I said so!" But that doesn't really lend itself to guiding and teaching our kids, does it?

It's okay to explain why. It's better than okay, even! Explaining the why behind a boundary or limit gives children the opportunity to evaluate a different perspective than their own, it gives them a chance to learn about reasoning and risk taking. And sometimes, it gives US the opportunity to reevaluate our answer because we can reflect on if we actually *have* a reason. (And yes, it's also okay to change your mind!)
Here are a few phrases for replacing "because I said so."

👉🏼 It's good to be curious and ask questions, here's why ________.
👉🏼 As soon as you are safe I will explain why.
👉🏼 My answer is no, here's why:
👉🏼 I hear you, but we're going to do it this way because...

And what about those times they keep asking why? Gently remind them that you've already answered their question and hold the limit.

What phrases would you add to our list?
 
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