The Punch: How to Find Peace with your Child When you Want to Scream
My son hit me the other day.
Yep. All 72# wound up and punched me in the stomach.
I don't even remember what he had been angry about.
But I do remember the feeling of disbelief
and my breath being sucked out of me.
I remember placing my hands on his shoulders
and saying "I won't let you hit me"
And I remember the look in his eyes.
Fear mixed with a little defiance.
He knew he was wrong.
In this moment, I had a choice
(I had a choice because I've worked really hard to create that space to be responsive to his needs vs reactive to his behavior)
I could have let the anger rise up
born out of fear at the child I'm raising,
the feeling of disrespect
and the need to punish
to “teach a lesson”
hijack me in that moment.
And in that moment it probably would have felt good.
I was doing something.
I was addressing this behavior.
But in that anger and yelling and punishing
I'd have responded to anger with anger
telling him that as long as I'm bigger
I can make you more unhappy
(and maybe even create a little fear in him).
Some might say to hit him back.
But that would have taught to react to anger and violence
with more anger and violence.
None of those would have taught him
to feel his anger without acting on it
(or teaching a better release valve for that anger and disappointment)
It wouldn’t have taught him about navigating relationships.
He knew it was wrong.
He didn’t need me punishing him (or hitting him back to tell him that)
Brain science proves it doesn’t teach him
When stress is activated (with fear) the part of the brain that
Learns and takes in the information to process
And use for later is turned off.
But the traditional model of parenting doesn’t consider this
The model that has parents judging this behavior
And maybe judging you for “allowing” this to happen
And then reacting
With punishments and consequences
To teach a lesson
(a lesson your child is unable to learn in that moment).
And that stress that you feel is what takes over in those moments
Causing you to react to what is unacceptable behavior
Your fear about this child you are raising
The disrespect at being hit
To feel better, you spill that feeling onto your child
To feel like you’re doing something.
But when you react with the punishment or consequences for this
That stress now rises in your child
That stress as you recall that actually impedes or even disables learning
I took that breathe
I returned to my space of calm
I reminded myself that this was his experience
His anger and adding to that anger was not going to
Teach him the values that I hope to instill in him
The values that guide him like a compass
So that even when I’m not around
He is making choices that align with those values
In those moments, take a minute or 5
Walk away if you have to
Calm yourself before you react
Finding that calm within you
Gives you the space to be wise and compassionate
To focus on teaching toward the desired future behavior
Vs. making your child as unhappy as you can for a past behavior
If he had another strategy to use in that moment he would have
It’s up to you to teach that
And you can’t do that with anger and fear.
I told him that really hurt
I need a moment
I validated his anger and disappointment
and asked how he might let me know he was angry
next time without hitting.
We talked. About feeling angry.
When it wants to overtake you
that you have control over that feeling
even when it feels like you don't.
I accepted his anger
I focused on the desired future behavior
vs the one he had just used.
Teaching a child to navigate their emotions
will have a greater effect in their behavior
that punishing the behavior
which happened as an immature way to express emotion.
When a child knows you love them unconditionally
Even in or maybe especially in these moments
They are open to your guidance and wisdom
But when you rely on punishments or consequences
(or even rewards but that’s another discussion)
You’re creating an external authority figure
Who will tell him how to behave
He doesn’t have to know how.
These external motivators that guide actions
What will happen to me if I do this
(or what will I get if I do this)
Foster the need to please others to look for outside validation for behavior
To choose actions based on avoiding pain or discomfort or judgement
What doesn’t happen is a child being rooted with an internal compass
Built on values and clear expectations and love
A child that knows who he is
And chooses actions based on those values
Even when you’re not around.
When a parent steps into control
Focused on the behavior
It can cripple and create a dysfunctional emotional intelligence system.
The system that supports a person in connecting with another
Despite what the circumstances might be.
But it starts with learning to navigate our own emotions
When parenting is actually all about the parent
Because in that moment the one thing
I focused on was what is happening in my child's world right now that made him use this behavior.
That becomes possible when I did the work to know my triggers
To shift my perception of my child in these moments
To hold the belief that I choose my reactions
and the anger I might have felt was coming from fear
that I wasn't doing my job as a parent
causing me to clamp down on the behavior.
Parenting becomes at its core about who I'm being as a parent.
But when a parent is simply trying to be peaceful without doing the work first,
All it feels is out of control.
When you take away the one thing that was giving you a feeling of control
(rewards, punishments, and consequences)
And don’t replace with self awareness and mindfulness
The powerlessness feels overwhelming
And you find yourself “resorting” to consequences because nothing else is working.
But every time you return to using the very thing that is causing the behaviors
and the power struggles
(because when you clamp down on winning or enforcing compliance, your child will becomes just as solid in their desire for what they want and will continue to use the behaviors to be heard until the need is met)
You reset the clock.
Here’s the thing…
I’m not sure if the behaviors actually get bigger as your child is learning to trust this new way of parenting
Or if they just feel bigger because you don’t have anything to “control” it
But without the awareness of what’s happening within you
Getting to the other side and actually creating the peace in parenting
Feels like an exercise in futility.
It begins with you
To allow for the freedom of connection.
To be able to lean into these moments vs push away in fear with punishment.
Because no amount of parenting strategies and tools you may read from a book or learn in another course can make up for the lack of connection that happens when the experts recommendations are to control, fix and manage behavior.
It is about being a compass so that your child can navigate through life
Firmly rooted in the values that you have shared
And the knowledge that you are on their side
That you love him unconditionally, without judgement.
It is about being the guide and support for you child
So that they may learn from you out of trust
Vs. choosing their behavior from fear.
This happens with solid values that you live into every day
With clear expectations that your child is capable of meeting
Acceptance without judgement both in your words said and not said
And holding the space for your child to be the best version of themselves
(even in those moments when their behavior might be less than such)
If this resonates with you and you’d love to know more peaceful parenting strategies (for you and your child) I’d love to offer you my Peaceful Parenting Handbook that includes 5 strategies to de-escalate those challenging parenting moments.
Click here and drop your email address in the box then check your email for the free download and start Creating Peace in Parenting (when it’s more about feeling peaceful within and not simply trying to be peaceful on the outside)
Oh yeah, and my son…
I’ve actually noticed better communication
And less hitting when he gets frustrated with his brother
(now if we can just work on that screaming!)