Our Emotions and Parenting
It’s our emotions that prevent us from being the parent we want to be.
Regulating our emotions is the first thing we need to do in accordance to be able to connect with our children and the other thing is to coach our children in managing of their own emotions instead of trying to control them. As conscious parents , we need to become comfortable with the world of emotions. Emotion coaching is what helps children to develop high EQ or emotional intelligence.
What is EQ?
We can think of it as being smart about emotions. Understanding your own emotions, regulating your emotions including anxiety which helps you regulate your behavior as a parent and understanding the emotions of other people. To a certain degree being smart helps kids to be successful, but experts now think that your child’s emotional intelligence is actually more important for his or her success in life than their IQ is. If you have a child who can manage his own impulses enough to sit and focus on the in the classroom, he is going to be more successful in school.
As kids get older it is emotional intelligence that helps them develop healthy relationships to thrive in life. Emotions are signals from my body, they are feelings that we feel in the body and they are information to urge to either take action or to learn a lesson, information that we can consider and act on. Emotions are reactions to the environment, and that means they are shaped by our perceptions.
If my perception is that my child is being a brat, I’m going to have a pretty negative emotion toward her. If my perception is that my child is having a hard time at the moment, I’m going to have a more sympathetic response to her.
Our emotions are always shaped by our perceptions, and often those perceptions are things that happen below the level of thought, so that we don’t even notice we have the perception. Our perceptions, of course are shaped by our view of the world, our view of our children and our thoughts. If our thoughts are a constant chatter of what a brat our child is, we are going to of course perceive her latest behavior is bratty. If our thoughts are instead an awareness that our child is doing the best she can and she is having a hard time sometimes, then we’re going to be much more charitable in our reaction and our emotions will be different toward how she behaves.
Emotions are information.
They are designed to send us a message. When we acknowledge the emotion, when we feel the emotion, the emotion leaves. It's like any other message that we receive. The problem is not our emotion. The problem is that we have a fairly limited repertoire of ways to respond to an upsetting emotion. For example, if our three year old is defiant, we can go into fly, fight or freeze. Freeze doesn’t usually work and, well, we usually can’t walk out of the front door in flight, so we end up in fight mode. We start yelling at our three year old.
It is not the emotion that’s the problem. The problem is our way of responding to the emotion. If, instead, we noticed the message but we calmed ourselves down, soothed ourselves and we simply acknowledged the emotion, we won’t fly off the handle and get reactive. We recognize, this is a trigger and I am really angry....the emotion will dissipate because it's being heard.
You can change your perspective, and say to yourself, "My 3 year old is having really a hard time, for whatever reason," and then you use the antidotal energy instead of screaming. You stop, drop your agenda at the time and take 3 deep breaths. The anger will leave.
If you stuff your emotions down, you are putting them in your emotional backpack. Imagine, you are carrying around a heavy backpack on your back. Some of us learned in childhood that anger was not safe, that anger was not OK, that good girls don’t get angry or even good boys don’t get angry and it was dangerous.
One of the wonderful things about meditation is that as you meditate those feelings actually come up to the surface to be listened to, to be healed, and we find ourselves unaccountably crying, for instance, even if we don’t know what it’s about. That’s healing. The feeling arises. It passes away. You are emptying out the backpack. When we feel the emotion it dissipates.
Our children also have emotional backpacks where they have being stuffing emotions that are too hard for them to cope with. Their body wants to heal itself. In the same way that if there is an infection, the body will surface it, it will push the infection to the surface and burst open a wound that started to heal and the pus will seep out. Like ours, their emotional backpack is also full of emotions they did not acknowledge, which are cut off from their awareness.
It does not help to try and talk our children out of the emotions; what helps is to acknowledge the emotion and help them go under the anger to more vulnerable feeling underneath. If a child cannot control their emotions, they are prone to outbursts of emotions and not being able to control the behavior. This is the missing link to why are your child acts out.
When they have stuffed their feelings down, those feelings are always bubbling up to get healed. Instead, if we accept the child’s emotion, then the child can accept their own emotions and can become wiser about them and acknowledge them, so the feelings begin to dissipate. The child can notice what action they could take in response to this emotional message.
When we do emotional coaching with our children, we start by accepting our child's emotion with no judgement, accepting that it is what it is. Then we help our child to feel and acknowledge their emotions and to go deeper into the emotions so that they just don’t get stuck on anger, and they learn emotions are not dangerous. “I can tolerate my emotions as they occur,” rather than just sticking them into the backpack where they can build up and explode.
This understanding of emotions teaches us something that most people don’t know. Anger is a signal that we are threatened. The threat could be a more vulnerable emotion we don’t want to feel like grief. For example, a person loses a family member to a disease. He is grieving, and he decides to sue the doctor even though there was no malpractice. This person is stuffing the grief down and transforming it into anger.When the lawsuit is over, no matter what the result is, then when we started grieving. We can no longer get stuck in anger and healing begins. When we switch from the fight response of the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system, there is a signal sent to the lacrimal glands of our eyes, which is where the tears come from. Then we finally begin to cry and to grieve. With our kids is the same, our kids come home from school, when he had a really bad day and he starts to fight with his brother, being demanding and whiny. Those are signs of a full emotional backpack. The kid has been stuffing those feelings all day and need help with the feelings.
Right now, they feel like is their brothers fault or your fault. They are in fight mode. What does freeze look like? They may demand treats to numb themselves out or they might demand screen time, which is also flight and gives them a way to distract themselves from their emotions. It helps them to manage their emotions (not really) or numb them out.
The good thing would be to feel the emotions and learn to manage them. Anger is always about something else. It is the feeling of a threat. It can be grief, frustration for something that happened at school, fear of not being loved because of a bad grade or because another sibling is loved more, the feeling of powelessness because of an unconscious teacher. Your child can not articulate it or handle it and they lash out.
If you learn to manage your emotional backpack and to help your child with theirs, you will further your journey to being the parent you want to be.