When our back is against the wall, anger feels right, even righteous. Strong emotion is like that. When it takes over, it pushes reason and perspective aside.
When Lena came home from school, her mother erupted. “Where have you been?” Liz screamed. Before Lena had a chance to answer, Liz slapped her face. “Don’t lie to me.”
Shocked, Liz moved towards Lena crying. “Oh my God, I didn’t mean to slap you.” Lena screamed, “I hate you,” and ran to her room.
Parents get triggered. Our bodies charge. Thoughts and Action follow.
Reactivity is a lightning bolt or a gathering of storm clouds. Either way, when anger takes over, reactivity ends up parenting your child.
When parents parent from reactivity, children can do nothing but react.
It took a few seconds before Liz felt deep regret and shame. She hated herself for losing her temper and was a little frightened she hit Lena.
4 keys things to know about Parent Reactivity
- Parents react.
- Reactivity is about you.
- Reactivity links to your past.
- You react because you feel threatened.
Lena coming home late from school triggered Liz. Reactivity is an attempt to control our external world. If we fix what’s happening outside, we will take care of the upset happening inside.
But it’s the opposite.
From an early age we learn to push our feelings away. Feelings inevitably find their way to the surface through behavior. Liz slapping Lena is behavior.
Having children forces us to deal with our tougher emotions.
- What’s going on here?
- What’s upsetting me?
- Where do we go from here?
In an ideal self-care Parenting You moment, Liz would sit down and breathe. She would make a U-turn by having a loving conversation with her anger before repairing with Lena.
She realizes her fear came from her childhood. When an older neighborhood boy assaulted her sister on her way home from school.
Liz was 10.
Liz soothed her 10-year-old, which is exactly like a parent soothing a child. Once she felt calm, she went upstairs and knocked on Lena’s door. She went inside as an adult.
Liz sat on the edge of Lena’s bed and said, “Can we talk?”
This time, Liz was calm. Lena could feel it. Liz explained to her daughter what happened when she was ten. She explained where her fear came from and how old her fear is.
Because Liz’s 10-year-old’s wasn’t parenting Lena, the conversation went well. Liz was in leadership.
True calm comes when understanding where your anger comes from.