Firstly, parents, we salute you.
We salute for you hanging in there whilst navigating the minefields of the toughest job on the planet - yup, parenting.
We acknowledge that every parent (well human being) on this planet is flawed and that by clicking into this article, we can't promise you a wonder cure, but we love that you are open minded enough to hear us out and see what you think - all because you want your kid/s to be happier (and your parenting life to be well, nicer!).
What we share in this article is JUST as relevant for our girls too, it's just that as mums of boys we are often despairing about the rages, physicality and intensity of our boys' feelings and actions. We are often left stumped and questioning our ability to parent our way effectively through this. A recent office discussion on angry boys behaviour prompted us to seek help...
And, here at Parents Guide Illawarra, we are fortunate enough to know of, and turn to, sources of parenting expertise when we are stumped - yay! So one of us chatted with the delightful parenting coach and author, Freya Dawson. What happened after our conversation was QUITE the light bulb moment for one of us as a parent!
CLICK HERE for more info on this seriously smart, evolved and wonder woman parent... and keep reading to find out how you can get a 30 min FREE one on one with Freya and the first 50 pages of her ground-breaking book....
Q. Freya - My child is going NUTS, in the heat of it all, what do you find is best thing to do and say AS my child rages?
Freya: I treat the angry outburst like the weather. I wait for my child’s anger to pass. Just like I would wait for a thunderstorm to pass. If there is hail, I get out of the way. Sometimes I say nothing and just listen. Sometimes I say something simple like “I understand” or “I’m sorry you're feeling so upset.” If necessary, I move away to avoid getting hit, or take action to protect another child, or (if they are little), move my angry child into a safe and quiet space.
Q. Sounds ideal Freya BUT what happens if we have been pushed emotionally too far and are really struggling to hold it together in the face of our child's intensity?
Freya: Yes, I'm observing my child's rage, but at that point I'm also observing my own reaction too - my bodily tension, my thoughts and what I'm telling myself about the situation. If I notice myself getting triggered by stressful thoughts and intense feelings I don’t try and stuff it down. I take some time out for myself or I simply let the energy of my emotions flow – this usually means some tears from me!
If things blow up and your lose your temper, please don't judge yourself. This just adds another layer of hurt to the situation which already fuelled by
big emotions from both parties.
If you have already judged yourself, just notice that and move on. If necessary, just back right off for a while.
Once the energy of mine or my child’s anger has subsided, then is the time to try and reconnect. For some children, physical touch can reconnect you with
you child, so hugs or a gentle hand hold is great - for some it's a gentle word and verbal reassurance. Regardless of age, our intense emotional outbursts
can be scary and overwhelming, so gentle reconnection after the rage, without retribution or a telling off, is the best way to bring it to close.
Q. So hang on Freya, just to be crystal clear here, you focus on what you are telling yourself and feeling yourself whilst your child loses it?
Yes! Absolutely! For example, if I notice I'm telling myself that my child's behaviour is totally unacceptable and "I shouldn't stand for this level of cheek and disrespect", my tension and outrage will bubble over and out in a way that is only going to add fuel to the fire and escalate the intensity, so prolonging the pain.
No parent or child can be reasonable or rational whilst in a blazing temper - my number one goal is remain self aware and as gently relaxed as possible so I can manage myself in the face of extreme behaviour from my child. If there are behavioural aspects we need to talk about, that time to talk it through is when things are calm and stable again.
Freya, Yes! You start by identifying what you are thinking about in a situation. So may I ask you as a mum - if your child has been getting very angry, what do you start to tell yourself? Readers - we encourage you to answer this too, as it is different for everyone..
- Freya asks - Is this thought really true that your child shouldn't do this, doesn't respect you, you have no control and others will judge you? Parents Guide Illawarra's response - Well given that I know every child loses it, and if anyone judges me then their opinion doesn't count - then they simply haven't been faced with this!
- Freya asks - How do you react when you think these thoughts? Parents Guide Illawarra's response - Well, then I think I shouldn't have to deal with this from my child and it is so disrespectful of them, I get sort of rigid with fury myself and cold, hard and very angry with them... Actually, being entirely honest, I'm taking their behaviour as complete disrespect and also as my loss of control over them, so therefore (I'm also thinking), if I'm angry and powerful then they have to respect me and do as I say!! Wow Freya, genuinely I didn't know how the played out in my head!!
- Freya - Good on you for being honest and vulnerable enough to recognise that, so the next question is - How would you be without that thought? Parents Guide Illawarra's response - Well, again to be entirely honest, I would be much calmer as my boy's extreme behaviour is not a reflection of me or my parenting inability, it’s just something that happens with kids, and if I’m not believing those stressful thoughts then just weathering the storm and staying calm and separate from it is possible. In fact I feel quite compassionately towards him as I know how awful it is to feel that emotional and angry... Also I'm a bit embarrassed to admit this but my sons will not respect me anymore if I'm being hard and angry, so therefore this tactic of mine is totally flawed!
Freya goes on to share with us that there are no right or wrong answers. It’s like a guided mediation; you sit with yourself and test your thoughts against these questions. You wait until your underlying thoughts and beliefs emerge (um, like mine they may not be very helpful or true!).
One of Freya's core components of her book Joyful Parenting is that the process of self inquiry and asking yourself these questions, has a powerful ability to change your perspective on an issue. It’s not so
much the situation that is causing your stress, but the thoughts you are thinking about it. Keen to still find out more? Get a 30 min FREE Discovery Session with Freya Dawson - simply email firstname.lastname@example.org
Parents Guide Illawarra's light bulb moment in response!! So, hang on, have I just realised here that when my sons got angry what was causing my stress, fear and anger was my own thoughts. It was my judgements of them, my imagined future, and my self criticism. It wasn’t really what my child was doing or saying at all.
Freya's response - YES! When I used self-inquiry to question my stressful thoughts I found that my buttons were no longer being pushed. My child could yell and scream and lash out and I could be the calm centre of the storm.
Even better; as my judgements of my sons dissolved, I found that unconditional love shone through. There was a quiet confidence that everything was as it should be and that they were fine.
I was fine too. And because I wasn’t all caught up in my own angry reaction, I could be fully present with my child to help them calm down. I could
listen and offer helpful guidance instead of loosing it and yelling at them. If I’m not judging I’m also more likely to be able to work out what’s
going on UNDERNEATH my child’s rage. In my experience, there’s always something else going on, and its often anxiety about something.
Now, when I use self-inquiry, I can handle the most challenging moments and fully accept them as part of the adventure that is raising my sons.
I’ve come to see the longer view; This will pass, this will change. And it has. Life changes all the time and children can change and grow up fast.
My eldest son stopped having angry outbursts altogether when he was about 9. Now he is a very kind and calm young man.
Parents Guide Illawarra's response: I'm taking this Joyful Parenting technique and running with it - the process of self awareness and then self inquiry (questioning the truth of our thoughts) can unlock a new super power - the ability to stay calm in the face of my kids fury!
We so hope this can help more parents like us, find the calm in the stormy process of parenting!
WANT TO FIND OUT MORE? READY TO TAKE THE NEXT STEP?
30 min FREE Discovery Session with Freya Dawson - meet one on one with Freya to explore further how her proven approach above can help YOU. This FREE 30 min session can either be done in-person or online via Zoom/Skype. Simply email email@example.com to get started,
SIGN up for Freya's Newsletter HERE and receive:
The first 50 pages of her book Joyful Parenting;
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CONTACT FREYA HERE to get in touch to ask her any questions about her course or sessions, or to buy her fabulous book, Joyful Parenting.
A genuine thank you to Freya Dawson for helping guide one of our team and for her sponsorship of this article that can help more parents find their super power of calm!