Why do we get triggered by our children’s behaviors?

We often find ourselves extremely frustrated with certain behaviors, or we become increasingly less patient, and we end up screaming, threatening, punishing, etc. What happened? Our children most likely triggered in us something that made our brains shut out from their logical, problem-solving abilities and go into its most undeveloped, primitive state, one that “lashed out,” and we were unable to control. What do we do when this happens?

If it happened and it’s too late, ALWAYS go back to your child once things calm down: explain and apologize. It can look like this: “Hey buddy, before, when I yelled, I was agitated, and I must’ve scared you. I’m sorry if I did. I will do my best not to do that again; I love you.”

Before it happens, we can notice ourselves starting to get heated. An explosion occurs when there is a lot of pressure building over time. We want to catch ourselves when the pressure is building before it explodes. The act of seeing ourselves or noticing ourselves is also one that is mindful. There are many ways of practicing mindfulness; the research is incredibly vast, one of them is meditation. I’m a big believer in meditation because I have seen its effects in my brain and in my ability to “catch myself thinking.”

I like to think of soccer as an analogy (I am Mexican): if we were to join a soccer tournament, with no practice and somebody told us to go for it, run, kick, goal, pass, etc. we would very likely end up exhausted, getting injured, and our scoring and passing abilities would be, at its’ very best, quite inadequate. However, what if someone gave us a month of practice ahead of time. We practiced a few times a week, even every day; how different would our bodies look when it was time to participate in an actual match. We would be more robust, our skills more refined, we would be more likely to succeed, wouldn’t we?

The same goes for meditation. You cannot expect to be an expert meditator if you have never practiced. Many people I speak to about meditation have a similar response: “there’s no way I could sit in silence and not think of anything for 10/20 minutes”. Of course not! That is precisely the point. We can’t. Our mind’s job is to process thought; as long as we have a functioning brain, we will have them. But what if we could learn to watch our thoughts come and go; what if I told you that those thoughts that you have are not who you are and that you can move on from them when they don’t serve you. That is the purpose of meditation; meditation is a practice, not a goal.

I have found meditation beneficial for my parenting. When those moments of crisis arise and my children have a meltdown, I can feel something deep inside me getting triggered. When I feel like I am close to losing patience, exploiting, and reaching a wall, I can let myself get carried away or stop myself beforehand if I can hear myself think. I can only do the latter if I have been doing my practice. I can participate in the “match” with strength, endurance and mastered the skill to notice myself going into those places of no return, yelling, and escalating.

I like to think of soccer as an analogy (I am Mexican): if we were to join a soccer tournament, with no practice and somebody told us to go for it, run, kick, goal, pass, etc. we would very likely end up exhausted, getting injured, and our scoring and passing abilities would be, at its’ very best, quite inadequate. However, what if someone gave us a month of practice ahead of time. We practiced a few times a week, even every day; how different would our bodies look when it was time to participate in an actual match. We would be more robust, our skills more refined, we would be more likely to succeed, wouldn’t we? The same goes for meditation. You cannot expect to be an expert meditator if you have never practiced. Many people I speak to about meditation have a similar response: “there’s no way I could sit in silence and not think of anything for 10/20 minutes”. Of course not! That is precisely the point. We can’t. Our mind’s job is to process thought; as long as we have a functioning brain, we will have them. But what if we could learn to watch our thoughts come and go; what if I told you that those thoughts that you have are not who you are and that you can move on from them when they don’t serve you. That is the purpose of meditation; meditation is a practice, not a goal. I have found meditation beneficial for my parenting. When those moments of crisis arise and my children have a meltdown, I can feel something deep inside me getting triggered. When I feel like I am close to losing patience, exploiting, and reaching a wall, I can let myself get carried away or stop myself beforehand if I can hear myself think. I can only do the latter if I have been doing my practice. I can participate in the “match” with strength, endurance and mastered the skill to notice myself going into those places of no return, yelling, and escalating.