Thank you Aptos parent for sending in this challenging situation!
"At the end of the day when I'm tired, I'm just trying to get things done. Keep dinner, bath, and bed moving in the right direction. I am needing cooperation and calm. Instead my kids are fighting. I talk to them...again. I ask my 8 year old son to help set the table and instead he complains, "Are we having THAT again? Yuck, I hate that!" No support, just backtalk! Now I'm feeling angry and just want to slap his rude mouth so he feels grateful he even HAS a Mom WILLING to fix him dinner. Arrrggg! What can I do?" ~Frustrated parent.
It makes sense that you'd be frustrated and angry. After all the effort and care you've focused on your family, the last thing you want is push back. Are you yearning for partnership, understanding, ease? It sounds like you know slapping your son's rude mouth isn't going to teach him, nor get the behavior you want. But what can you do with all of the real anger energy you have coursing through your body? I hear you wondering what other choices you have to get the partnership and harmony you desire.
It is hard when you are at your limit not to get stuck dumping your upset onto your child. The 5 Steps to Connect is a way to notice our biology so we don't unconsciously shame, blame and attack each other. In the above moment, a way to notice is BBB: Breathe, Body Scan, Broadcast. These work to interrupt triggered reactions before they get dumped on who's near, your son.
Breathe: Breathing deeply is a way to calm your limbic system to interrupt the FIGHT ready to slap and unleash a torrent of shameful words.
Body Scan: It helps to notice your body's tension clues: tight jaw, clenching trapezoid muscles, constricted throat, glitching stomach, rapid heartbeat.
Broadcast: Name what is happening, without saying the word 'YOU'. "My heart is beating fast, my breathing is shallow like I can't get a breath. I want to make it stop! I am feeling angry, and out of control, and tired! I want co-operation and partnership! I want this to be easier!" Naming what 'is' allows you to validate your experience and shift your energy.
(This can be said silently in your head, or quietly to yourself, or loudly in the bathroom or to model in front of your kids.)
Once you are able to interrupt the Reaction, you are more able to explore and be curious about your limbic biology. In a reactive state you are susceptible to complain, blame and shame each other. The 5 Steps invitation is to work with your triggered state so you can become CEO's.
C is Care and Compassion. This is a hard situation! Can you give yourself 2-5 minutes of care in this moment? Put on good music? 2 minute back rub with your son and then switch? Jump up and down and be silly for 2 minutes with your kids? Invite compassion for yourself and your kids, not the critic.
E is Experience Emotions. Can you give yourself permission and an outlet to experience the raw frustration and anger? It is common to spend much of the day rationalizing and numbing your emotions at school and work, places it is not as safe to feel. But then they get pent up and you become a pressure cooker of stuck emotional energy. Each emotion is trying to give you a message about your values. It is important to take time out to listen to and move their energy. Would you be willing to put on loud music to dance and move your anger and frustration? Allow it to express what it wants to tell you.
O is Owning. Are you able to acknowledge that something inside you got triggered and it isn't your son's 'fault'? That he is the stimulus of the reaction, but not the cause. Know that your son isn't doing anything 'to' you. Can you see that the biology of your limbic system is trying to protect you from the discomfort of hard emotions like anger and frustration? Could it be possible that when you are upset, looking inside is of more service, than at your son?
So to answer the frustrated Aptos parent who wants more choice, harmony and connection: first, tune into your body sensations and notice where you are tense. Choose to put dinner on hold for 10-15 minutes to do this CEO (Care, Emotions and Owning) process. Dancing with your kids will help all shift and release emotional energy so you can enjoy relating with each other for the rest of the night.
Let me know how this works for you!
Please send in challenging family dynamics you'd like support with - I'm sure others have struggled with the same things and would benefit!
Stay tuned for...
Part 2: More on Owning and differentiating your thoughts/story.
Part 3: Listening to your child from a place of balance and connection.
Part 4: Setting Limits from your connected enter, not your reactive self.
Part 5: Typical obstacles to this process and how to work with them.