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Why does our children’s behaviours trigger us?

When we react in anger or respond emotionally to our children’s behaviours, it’s not actually the behaviour that causes our anger or emotion, it’s often the feelings and emotions that the behaviour triggers in us that causes our response.

For example, I have two children who are 2 ½ years apart, and although they are good friends now, growing up they didn’t always see eye to eye.  What I really mean by that is that they would take any and all, opportunity to hit, hurt, blame, shout, annoy and generally disagree for most of the time they were together.

I used to react (overreact) when I saw my son hitting out at his sister, and now that I am far removed and they have grown up and left home, I can clearly see what was going on for me. It wasn’t the actual action of my son hitting his sister over the head with a light sabre, it was the fears and worries that the behaviour itself generated with me.  It messed with my own feelings, emotions and values and went deep to my worry core.

You see, my values of the “men don’t hit girls” was an obvious emotional trigger (now that I can look back) but it went deeper than that to a societal level.  What would happen is that my mind would race straight to the conclusion that my son lashed out easily, therefore he must have anger issues, and therefore will grow up to be a psychopath and go to jail, and therefore I’m a terrible mother !! Catastrophising at its best. Now…I know that’s not a logical thinking pattern, but most worries, fears & negative feelings are not logical thinking patterns. They are illogical, negative and damaging.

This tirade of increasingly worrying thoughts and emotions comes almost immediately, certainly within seconds and it brings with it all the mum-guilty feelings of failure, fear & shame and general not-good-enoughness.

And our response to the feelings of fear, failure, guilt and shame is typically to respond defensively in ANGER.

So you see…. Our response isn’t caused by the behaviour as such….Our response is caused by our emotions, thoughts, feelings and fears that are triggered by the behaviours.

P.S. I am very pleased to let you know that that wee boy who lashed out at his sister, is now a well-balanced 26 year old man, who is not a psychopath and is not in jail…. And his sister survived the typical & regular sibling arguments & fights that many of you are experiencing on a daily basis just now… and If I remember rightly she could give as good as she got.