"I have a question for you. What is the best response to my 5 year old hitting me and calling me names. I get so angry. I feel like it's okay to get angry, because it's not okay to be hit or called names. But I know yelling at him isn't very productive. But stuffing down my emotions isn't correct either. So what do I do? I feel so disrespected when he does this. In addition to physical pain. It's like a bomb going off of big emotions. I want to hit him back so he knows how it feels. I want to scream at him. I feel so small and like an utter failure at parenting when my kid treats me with such little respect. I have yelled back at him. And then gone back later to repair and talk about it. But it's not changing his behavior either. He does it on impulse when he's mad about something." ~ Parent of 4 in Aptos.
It is hard when you are both triggered at the same time and all those big emotions are being felt so intensely. Yes, super healthy to feel the anger. The challenge is to own it and send it to the sky or the ground or the dammit doll and NOT at the stimulus (your son). Yes, you get to set your personal safety boundaries, "No, it is not OK to hit. You seem really angry and frustrated. How can you let out your big anger to the sky or the ground?" (have an emotional release as it sounds like you both need it). Can you jump and stomp on a designated 'permission to feel everything' spot in the room, like a mouse pad? Can you shout to the sky..."I am so angry. I am a volcano exploding! I want... power in my world!" (Or we parents may want... safety, respect, kindness, ease, partnership! Just allow your son and yourself to feel and don't worry about getting the 'correct' values/words.
If you can, reassure your son that your reaction has nothing to do with him. I know this is counter intuitive, but no one makes you feel. You feel in response to a stimulus. Your stuff got activated. "Son, this has nothing to do with you, Mommy just needs an emotional release." Put on a favorite heavy beat song and dance it out together, making thrusting out gestures. Throw socks as hard as you can at the couch. We so need to feel, to care, to emote...just not AT someone.
The hard thing is that when you get hit, you go unconsciously into flight, fight, freeze and don't have much rational prefrontal cortex to work with. We believe our stories are TRUTH at this moment. We are righteous. He is wrong! It is a problem!! It IS his fault!! We play enmeshment twister, labeling, blaming, analyzing. And let me tell you from experience, nothing good comes out of my mouth from this triggered place. So feel this energy, experience and own the emotions, just don't direct it at anyone.
When/if we do speak from this triggered place, it is often at the expense of connecting with ourself and our child. Give yourself compassion. Do something to rejuvenate or re-center Sing. Read your favorite verse, use a gesture of support to anchor yourself.
My latest metaphor is 'hurt puppy'. When you son hits or says things you deem 'disrespectful', see him as a hurt puppy. He is hurting, afraid and disconnected from his core, his values. He needs you to see, to know in your core that when he hits you it has nothing to do with you. He is trying to have an emotional release and he doesn't see any other way. He's not trying to do anything TO you. He is trying to live his values, get his needs met. Don't take it personally, don't enmesh. Keep safety without entangling.
To learn more, email me and sign up for one of my parenting workshops. Next one starts 4/20/17 Thursdays 7-8:30pm for 4 weeks.
There is also great info at Hand in Hand parenting on hitting and aggressive behavior.