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4 Steps To Responding Instead Of Reacting When You’re Triggered By Your Kids

mom talking to young son

This article originally appeared on iMOM.com and reflects their mission and beliefs.

Have you ever closed out the day yelling at your kids? If you haven’t, I’m impressed. Or maybe you work nights, and you’re not home in the evening. Yelling before bedtime is the worst feeling, but when my kids have been told five or six times to go brush their teeth and they’re still wrestling in the hallway and whacking each other with socks, I feel desperate, so I react by yelling. They usually comply and then move around silently for the next few minutes, trying not to upset me again.

Because I’m tired, nighttime mayhem triggers me almost every time. What’s your trigger? We all have one, or five. But what if, when we’re triggered, we could respond instead of react? I know for me, it would lead to fewer regrettable evenings. Think about how it would change things for you. If responding instead of reacting sounds like something you need in your life, you can master it in 4 steps.

Step 1: Pause.

As much as we like to think we are in control of our brains and bodies, sometimes our kids can flip a switch that makes rational thought impossible. Clinical psychologist Dr. Nanika Coor explains it like this: When you’re triggered, your body goes into a survival state, like fight or flight. The reaction you’re having is automatic. You don’t have to consciously tell yourself to yell; it just comes out.

But you can take control by pausing. A pause tells your body there’s not an emergency. There’s no saber-toothed tiger coming after you. Stop talking, explaining, and lecturing. Just breathe.

Step 2: Check in.

Now that you’ve paused, check in with yourself. What do you feel? When my sons ignore me at night, I feel annoyed, frustrated, and tired. Then I feel guilty for feeling like they are a burden. All of that builds into a big ball of emotion that eventually has to come out.

An important part of checking in is to not pass judgment on yourself. You’re human and you’re allowed to be tired. Acknowledge those feelings, and then move on to step three.

Step 3: Reframe.

Congrats! You’ve given yourself a bit of grace. Now it’s time to extend some to your kids. Reframe the situation and look at it through their eyes. You need them to pick up their toys. They need to keep playing. My sons probably didn’t want to go to bed because going to bed meant they had to get up and go to school. The longer they can delay the toothbrush, the longer they can delay lights out.

Your children are just people trying to get their own needs met and those needs are often incompatible with yours. Reframing helps you show compassion.

Step 4: Choose a response.

Responding instead of reacting involves making a conscious choice. Now that you’ve paused and told your body to relax, checked in on how you’re feeling and why, and looked at the situation from your child’s perspective, it’s time to choose how you’re going to respond. On a good night, I choose to say, “I know you guys are having fun, so you have five minutes to get the sillies out, and then you have to brush your teeth.â€

The choice you make is affected by your bandwidth. If your child is having a meltdown and you’ve got nothing left in your tank, you might have to resort to the least harmful response, which is probably just walking away.

Remember, the goal is to make connections with our kids. Automatic reactions often disconnect us while intentional responses connect us.

What triggers you most with your kids?

This article originally appeared on iMOM.com and reflects their mission and beliefs.

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