guest post by Lori Petro @TEACHthruLove
Once you become a parent, you quickly come to recognize just
how much tolerance (or lack thereof) for stress, pain and
frustration you really have.
Children, by definition, are needy, immature, prone to emotional outbursts, and sensitive to the reactions of others. This makes them challenging to relate to if you are not well-equipped to peacefully manage your own internal conflict.
When you’re a parent, there is no shortage of hair-pulling, head-banging, anger inducing moments:
Whining for a different colored cup even after you’ve switched it twice
Melting down when it is time to go home even though you’ve given three warnings
Screaming NO at every request to bathe, dress or sleep, despite your empathetic and logical requests for cooperation
Begging for more cookies or JUST ONE more book before bed
Negotiating for a later curfew or longer playtime even AFTER you’ve set the limit
When we put mindfulness into practice BEFORE we reach explosive anger, we can re-train the brain to adapt, and grow stronger and more tolerant.
Here are five heart-centered practices for managing your anger and creating new patterns of responding from love instead of fear.
1. Detached Willingness
Often, much of the stress and frustration that we experience is the result of having a specific idea of how things should go.
I had an acting teacher in my twenties who had a mantra for his students (in his appropriately named class – “Acting for Life”). This phrase has served me well, both professionally and personally, and it perfectly sums up detached willingness.
He said, “Anything can happen; it’s never what you think it is.”
When you enter conflict with detached willingness and an intention to be curious, you open yourself up to possibilities that you never knew existed.
You prepare yourself for receiving and allowing instead of seeing and shutting down.
Set a goal to make detached willingness and curiosity a part of your daily experience. When you run into disagreement or conflict, breathe through your first unconscious reaction and then slowly move your attention from judgment to investigation.
Reflection Question: What judgments can I let go of, and then, with detached willingness, seek to be curious about instead?
2. The Building Blocks of Tolerance
If you want to respond to your children from a place of empowerment, then expanding your tolerance is a crucial step.
Good self-care and supportive relationships are the building- blocks of tolerance.
When you have adequate rest, proper nutrition and supportive people on which you can rely (to listen to you, rather than judge or counsel you), you will be more able to respond to life with positive coping tools.
Tolerance is not a quality that you summon in the heat of the moment by free will alone, but a mechanism for coping that is strengthened with a daily practice of self-care and maintaining healthy, intimate relationships.
Tolerance should not be confused for acceptance of poor behavior. Tolerance is not submission, but an inner knowing that you are OK and can confidently address behavior without using harsh, critical or demanding words or actions.
Reflection Question: What are 3 ways I could take better care of my mental, emotional and physical needs so that I can increase my tolerance?
3. Sing Out Loud, Sing Out Strong
The power of play is an incredibly freeing, and fast-acting approach to reducing negative tension.
Play is the language children use to express themselves. Being playful and silly when children are behaving in ways that are challenging can feel like you’re “giving in” or worse, “approving” of behavior.
We can be so conditioned to see negative behavior as something that needs to be controlled or disconnected from, and certainly never “rewarded” with our attention or affection.
These beliefs can have a powerful hold on your behavior. They must be examined and rewritten before you can break the anger cycle and be fully present and emotionally available for your children.
Being playful and using music and movement to release tension when you are feeling stressed sends the message to your kids that feelings (even the uncomfortable ones) are normal and that bringing a bit of levity to conflict can help them pass.
When you feel like you are in a pressure cooker, you need to release the steam. Instead of exploding, use creative expression as an outlet to transform your body from reactive to responsive.
Reflection Question: What beliefs prevent me from connecting with my children through play during stressful moments?
4. Tap It Out
EFT, Emotional Freedom Technique, aka “Tapping,” is a simple, non-invasive technique for reducing stress and eliminating negative behaviors. I’ve been using it since 2002 to self-treat a variety of issues including PTSD and generalized anxiety.
Your inherent capacity to regulate your emotions may be significantly compromised from past traumatic experiences or by current stressors.
Trauma is not always life-threatening or dramatic. High conflict, negativity, hostility and even corporal punishment can contribute to chronic family stress which, over time, leads to the experience of trauma, and inhibits your natural mechanisms for healing and recovery.
Depending on your personal history and current circumstances, you may be working with an internal system that needs to be recalibrated for peace and harmony.
The brain is an organ that seeks sameness, and history tends to repeat unless the patterns are interrupted. Energy-based healing techniques can be helpful in reaching those deep-level unconscious memories that inform our habits of reacting.
ETF explores this brain-body-emotion connection, and has been shown to reduce patterns of negative emotion, fear-based beliefs and addictions with great success.
Reflection Question: What beliefs need shifting so that I can allow my emotions to inform and guide me, rather than rule me?
5. Reflection Practice
Reflection is an important aspect of self-care, and being able to modify self-sabotaging behaviors. Reflection should not be an emotionally draining process, or something to dread. If it is, you won’t be motivated to use it to change.
To be able to sit with discomfort, and allow it to pass without analyzing or judging is the first step, but if we want to learn from that reflection, we must also derive some pleasurable benefit, otherwise we will avoid the introspection.
Reflection, empathy and self-awareness are advanced brain skills which require a level of emotional intelligence that is still elusive for many adults.
Reflection should not be a chore that creates more stress, but a discovery of your natural healing abilities and intuitive knowing of your soul needs.
However, for so many of us, it becomes just another time-suck, another item on a growing to-do list, so choose a reflection practice that is soothing and not distressing.
Journaling/ Creative Writing
Walking in Nature
Sitting in Peaceful Surroundings
Slow Repetitive Activities (knitting, beading, sculpting, painting)
What works for you? Get in touch with what you enjoy by doing some self-discovery work to uncover your sweet spot of relaxation.
Reflection Question: What activities soothe my soul and bring peace and clarity to my mind?
Taking control of your thoughts and behaviors to reduce anger and stress is a gift you give to yourself, and a journey that will return you to your natural state of peace and well-being.
As you become aware of your triggers, practice better self-care, cultivate supportive relationships and allow for the non-judgment of emotions, you will increase your ability to release intruding or destructive thoughts in a safe, productive manner – finally breaking the anger circle in your family.
Lori Petro, BS Ed., is a Speaker, Advocate & Parent Educator. She founded TEACH through Love as a vehicle to help families heal the cycle abuse and trauma through the relationship-building tools of empathy, compassionate communication and peaceful conflict resolution. As an adult with Asperger’s, Lori understands the demands of parenting kids with special needs and believes that by building strong bonds, we can cross the bridge to understanding the behaviors and needs of all kids. Lori is a sought-after speaker who consults privately with clients, teaches online and shares her insights and information in her weekly TEACHable Moments videos. Connect with Lori on Twitter: @TEACHthruLove, Facebook, Blog, and Website: http://www.teach-through-love.com.