Ah triggers. I remember the first time I heard that word in relation to Michael. I’d vaguely remembered hearing about things that trigger our emotions, but had not really paid attention to it. Then Michael began to act aggressively and it was all about figuring out what was triggering him. That word was also used when trying to figure out his anxiety triggers. Then, surprisingly, the word was directed back to Dad and I by our team in the the form of a question- what were our emotional triggers? This means basically what did Michael say or do that upset us to the point that we forgot ourselves and lost our cool? This was interesting for Dad and I to examine. After all, our kid was the one acting up. Why did we need to question our parenting or ways of handling him? Well, I can tell you why parents. Because once your child knows they can push your buttons, they will try to push them all the time or at least, much more than they are doing. That’s what was happening in our family. And still happens on occasion when Dad and I are tired, stressed, or let our guard down.
You see, it’s not that Michael wants to upset us. He is angry, lashes out, and if we don’t stay calm, firm and consistent with how we handle each incident, he will test us again with a similar incident. He is a good kid. I was happy to hear we were not wrong about that. But with all his anxiety, impulse control and perfectionist personality, he is a very intense kid. He is hard on himself as well. Now that Dad and I are understanding how structuring the home differently than we did when he was a child is what he needs, he has begun to become more cooperative with us, less aggressive, and more respectful. When he was little I set up a sensory corner, told him when he needed to move, rest and threw him into activities. That worked until he was nine. Then he started to test the waters and his independence. Puberty was beginning. The last two years have been about gradually adjusting his own control over his life at home, along with still listening and respecting our rules as his parents, whether he likes them or not. The cornerstone of success has always been for Dad and I to stay calm, consistent and steady. When we have, good things have happened. When we haven’t, our relationship with Michael has moved backwards a step as has our own. But that has also been ok. The reason is because it has been a learning experience for us and Michael. We have told him we messed up, and now this is what is going to happen next. We usually can recover from times like these.
So what are examples of anger triggers and some ways to find solutions to them? Here are a few I I have seen and/or personally experienced:
1)Child swearing at parent- Parent yelling back: This will only make the child want to engage you more. Stay calm. Be firm in explaining the consequences of language like that and moving on.
2) Child acting up in public– Parent negotiating with them to calm down: It’s simple. They act up. You leave. The consequence is no audience for misbehavior. With older kids, you can go over a script in the car or home: So if you do blah blah blah, what happens? And have them tell you.
3) Child not getting ready for bed or getting up on time: Parent should not yell, threaten to take away things or engage the child. In advance, the child needs to know what consequence can happen if anything like this is done.
4) Child throwing or breaking things and parent yelling or crying: As hard as it is, stay calm, look away, tell them to clean up mess and do reparations.
5) Child putting up a fuss over food: Parent should try not to make too much of a big deal. Often times when power plays arise, it’s because the child feels cornered. Now, if there are allergies or other health reasons a child has to eat a certain way then seeking your doctor’s and a nutritionist’s help is the way to go.
Common anger triggers for parents and children are tiredness, stress, loss of power or control, and inconsistent routines. This means that your best bet as an Exceptional Parent is to have adult and child strategies for how you will all handle any of the above things.
Exceptional Parents, do you know what your anger triggers are as well as your child’s? Good. Then the next step is to sit down and figure out a way to stay calm as a parent, have a consistent home routine, and teach your child how to open up about feelings without using verbal or physical aggression. It may take a while but you can do it. One day at a time. Stay positive. And remember, you love your child and they love you. Work as a team, and eventually your strong willed child will be confident and sure of themselves, not having to act out to get attention and handle frustration. Until next time.
I am a writer, speaker and parent coach. I blog about how my exceptional son with Autism, ADHD, OCD and Type 1 Diabetes is raising me to a better human being and exceptional mom. My mission is to empower other exceptional parents to trust in their parenting instinct while letting their exceptional child open their eyes to all that is possible! For more information on my coaching services and to download a copy of my FREE EBOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” see my website, http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com