Parenting Triggers: How our fears and thoughts show up in our parenting
Parenting is effing hard, isn’t it? I’m not talking about dealing with our kid’s behaviors because honestly once we change our mindset about their behaviors it’s so much easier to deal with (it’s simple but takes a lot of practice). I’m talking about how society and the people around us can have a big impact on how we parent. Even if sometimes we tell ourselves that we don’t care what others say or think, there usually is someone or some experience in the back of our mind that influences how we parent and how we think like parents.
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I want to talk about how our thoughts and fears show up in our parenting. Most of us have fears and thoughts that have developed throughout our lives that start in our childhood. Even if you had a great childhood there may be a time where you felt like you had to meet other’s expectations and didn’t have a say in anything that you had to do or couldn’t do, because your parents had thoughts and fears of their own.
There have been times that I have said no or dismissed my kids because I was worried about how it was going to make me look as a parent. If I let them do something and others saw, I would be scared of being judged, so I would change my boundaries just so I wouldn’t be judged no matter how it affected my kids. For example, my kids throwing a tantrum in the store. I would try so hard to get them to stop crying. I would threaten them or “give in” and give them the thing they wanted, or do whatever I could so people wouldn’t judge me or my child. Or I would force my kids to sit still and read and do homework or sit still period and focus because I was afraid of them being behind in school or not knowing how to “behave”.
I would set boundaries but not know why I even have them in place but I would enforce them because of my fears. These boundaries I would set because they were set for me as a child and probably like almost everyone else, so I felt like I had to keep these boundaries in place. Sometimes I would feel icky inside because it wasn’t necessarily a boundary that I felt comfortable setting or I was confused on why they were even boundaries. If I was confused about them how could I possibly expect my child to understand them, but I thought I had to because of my fears and thoughts.
My fears of what others will say or think, “no wonder why her kids act like that.” Or, “I can’t believe she lets her kids do that.”
I have had thoughts about what if my child doesn’t do something or not be successful at something, will people think I’m not a good enough parent? Will family think less of me or my child? A lot of the time when we let these fears and thoughts get in our way, it’s often a selfish (unintentionally) thing we get caught up in. We think about our reputation, how we will look to others, rather than focusing on our child-not always thinking about how they’re feeling, what they’re needing regardless of what is the “norm”.
Reasons why we might say no, or push them to do things or not do things
I like to call this parent pressure. When our kids are young and in the teenage years we lecture them over and over about peer pressure, but what we don’t really realize is that we often do similar things as their peers.
How many times have you told your child, “oh, you can do it, see that other kid (or your sibling) does it and they aren’t scared.” “Look, so and so likes it, just try it I bet you’ll like it.” ” See look at that other kid, they got good grades because they worked harder.”
Sound familiar? Don’t worry, I’m not here to judge, I’ve been there myself. Without thinking we are pressuring them into doing things they don’t feel comfortable with or don’t necessarily sit right with them, it might not be for them. But, we tend to think we know what is best for them simply because we are older and wiser, and because of our fears and thoughts.
We may have good intentions, we want our kids to be successful, and confident, but we need to look at what success looks like to us and how we can help them build confidence from within rather than feeling pressured to do something and then praised for doing it.
There is nothing wrong with wanting the best for your child, obviously. I’m sure as a teenager or younger you would get annoyed with your parents when they told you that you HAD to do something or shut down your ideas quickly and you might have felt like you had no say in your life and like they just didn’t understand you.
Sometimes things never change. What I like to have parents try is to talk to their kids. Go into the conversation with a clear mind, don’t worry about what others may think, listen and hear what your child has to say. If it’s something that you feel strongly about and it has nothing to do with how it will make you look like a parent, let them know your reason.
Say, they are refusing to continue an extracurricular activity and you know that it will be good for them, see if there is an agreement that both of you can come up with together, try to keep an open mind here.
If it’s a situation like dealing with a tantrum in the store, I get the pressure, parents feeling like the whole world is looking at you and you’re eager to stop the tantrum just to avoid judgment, it’s scary and overwhelming. Bring your focus completely to your child, in a calm safe way. Get to their level and hold them if they like to be held, let them cry, even if it’s in the middle of the aisle it’s ok, those other people can walk around, right now your priority is your child not the people around you.
Let them feel what they’re feeling, when they seem to have calmed down to where you can talk, start with empathizing with them, then see if you both can come up with a solution together. ” I know you really wanted that awesome-looking bike, it looks like a lot of fun doesn’t it? It’s really hard when you can’t have something that you want right away, isn’t it? Yeah. Since we can’t get it today what do you think we can do?
If they are 7 and under give 2 options and let them choose, if they are older let them come up with an idea and work together to meet each other in the middle.
Reasons why we might say no, or push them to do things or not do things- because we fear:
- that we weren’t successful with our dreams so they need to pick up our failures
-judgment from family, friends, society
-fear of being behind
- it’s not socially normal
- it’s a reflection on your parenting
- that they won’t carry your legacy
- them not being successful
Are your thoughts and fears getting in the way of your relationship with your child?
Do your thoughts and fears get in the way of trusting and listening to your child?
Are these things that you were conditioned with as a child?
Perhaps you were being pushed to do things you might not have wanted to do, or needing to prove yourself to your parents and others because you might feel like they didn’t think you weren’t smart enough or capable to accomplish a dream of yours, they thought it was a waste of time.
Maybe your parents have told you that you were making them look bad. Or maybe you were put in every extracurricular activity because that was how you were going to be successful, whether it was at home, school, or anywhere that there was another caretaker.
Did you have any consent to your body or what you wanted to do?
How these fears and thouhgts can be a cause to your parenting triggers
Oh man, the triggers are real aren’t they? So many parents I’ve talked to including myself wonder how we can be so triggered and reactive to our kids. The slightest thing like seeing a sock on the floor that nobody in the whole house notices and it just sits there. We start to think that they are thinking, “oh mom will just get it.” Our thoughts start to get to us, they are lazy, they just expect mom to do everything, what am I doing wrong, why can’t they just learn to help me.
My house is constantly a mess I don’t get help, but I have to keep it cleaned all the time because then I look like I’m a slob and I don’t know how to teach my kids to clean up after themselves. The thoughts and fears just pour in and we start to let it get to us even when we aren’t even realizing it, then BAM we are triggered and we explode.
Whoo, take a deep breath if you felt that. It happens to us all. Almost always when we are triggered it’s not because of our children or our spouse or anyone really, it has a lot to do with our thoughts and beliefs. It takes practice to stop yourself in your tracks to think about where this feeling (anger, frustration, annoyed) is coming from, to sit with the feeling and digest it to see why we are feeling this right now.
A great way to think about why you were triggered if you missed the opportunity to connect with yourself when you were in a heated moment, is to reflect on the situation. It doesn’t have to be the right way, it can be before you fall asleep. You can think about it or write about it. Reflection is where we can do the best work to improve ourselves. Reflect and dig to see where those feelings were coming from, what were your thoughts, what was a fear you might have been having? What led up to the explosive episode?
I encourage you the next time you are feeling triggered, which there may be thousands of opportunities throughout the day to reflect and see what you discovered.
If you want more help with understanding your triggers, thoughts, and fears, download this Reactive Parent’s 3 Step Guide To Calming The F!@# Down.
This will help you work through your triggers and how to work towards being less reactive even in the most aggravating moments.
Comment below and tell me how fear and thoughts show up in your parenting.