Have you ever felt so frustrated with your kids that you want to scream?
Do you sometimes flip into a rage so fast you can’t catch yourself before doing something that hurts your kids?
That intense feeling that surges through us, hijacking our thoughts and commandeering our emotions and behaviour is likely caused by the triggering of a negative core belief.
What we tell ourselves, both in happy and challenging times, is a product of our experiences and how those experiences were understood at the time they occurred. When something happens in life, a person interprets that event and tucks it away into categories of beliefs.
These beliefs, called core beliefs, are based on deep-seated thoughts we have about who we are, how people see us, how the world is, and what our future holds.
Our core beliefs create part of the lens through which we see and experience life—and how we parent. They can tell us to get angry when a child is in the throes of a tantrum or to stay calm and support the child. The affect how we interpret a situation—if we see the world with a glass half-empty or half-full.
Core beliefs are messages (that we may or may not be aware of), which we come to believe as a result of our life experiences, innate disposition and/or cultural influences.
When we go through something as a child, on a subconscious level, we generate impressions of the world based on what has happened and how people treated us in that event.
For example, a child who is raised by a father who continually explodes, shouts, and hits when he is angry might interpret this a few ways. Perhaps that child will become afraid of anyone having anger, including herself, or maybe she will start to believe that his anger is “her fault” (which is likely to happen if the dad says, “YOU make me so mad.”)
Children don’t have the ability to understand that an adult isn’t controlling himself or making bad choices, they see it as something they have caused.
The generalizations that might get made in the subconscious of that child will lead to behaviours that support the beliefs. Maybe this girl with the aggressive dad will start watching her actions to avoid something that might set her dad off (and thereby not be herself). For this situation, the core belief messages that might grow are: Getting angry is bad. I’m a bad person for making him mad. I’m a bad girl.
Core beliefs can happen in both a positive or negative light. Positive core beliefs generally help us to succeed and feel the world is our oyster. Negative core beliefs generally hold us back from our highest potential.
Negative (and positive) beliefs are the foundation for self-talk. Those are the messages that sneak into our minds, which shout something like, I don’t have time for this crap! or Not again—I’m so sick of this. And even, My son is an absolute asshole.
Our positive self-talk can soothe us with, Your child is overwhelmed. See his pain. Help him, and This is hard—and you can do it.
Core beliefs also drive behaviour (which we may, or may not feel in control of) and send out floods of feelings.
In the getting angry is bad example, a child who grows that belief will act on it—staying quiet, cowering or the opposite, blowing up because that is what her dad is inadvertently teaching her to do when angry.
This negative core belief will continue to exist until it is found and challenged. An adult who still carries that belief from childhood might experience it in a few ways. Perhaps that person will run away from conflict, not speak up when she needs to, or even marry a violent person.
Knowing about positive and negative core beliefs is critical for parents. When a parent understands how negative ones develop, she can stop herself from saying or doing the things that grow them (well, to the best of our ability—some will still get through but they likely won’t be debilitating ones.) Parents can understand their own triggers AND help guide their children, inspire cooperation and create strong-minded kids.
Often when parents understand how to stop growing negative core beliefs in their kids, tantrums stop, too!
Please go easy on yourself. If you have been treating your child harshly or getting frustrated with your lack of patience, there are ways to change this! It is not too late to learn and change things around.
Core belief information better equips parents to grow secure attachment and resiliency. It also reduces a person’s frustration!
Here is one thing to do to prevent growing negative beliefs in your child:
This is an introduction to a really BIG topic. I will continue to talk about core beliefs and self-talk in my writing. If you’d like more information, I am actually conducting live, online small group workshops next week (I am hosting the same workshop at three different times). I am going to explain this concept more and help parents find and shift negative beliefs they may have.
Here are the links to the workshop information. There is a maximum registration of 20 people per session so I can answer your personal questions. Make sure you click the “Find tickets” button to register ($10 US, 45 minutes).
Also, I will continue to provide free information on this topic and more over on my Facebook page.
If you liked this, you might also like: "How To Be An Empathetic Parent Even When It Feels Hard," and "Parenting: The Sink Or Swim Scenario."
Parents laugh when I joke that my children (not I) decided I was going to become a parenting educator. I was quite happy helping clients with their trauma recovery work, and then I had kids.
To my great surprise, having children brought out the worst in me (at first). I expected parenting to be more joyful than it actually was, but my reality was that I spent a lot of time crying when my children were born.
As a psychotherapist, I realized what I was doing to sink my own ship and enlisted the help of trusted colleagues to pull me through. I don’t think we do a good enough job of admitting how hard parenting can be sometimes. There are moments, which are mind numbing, exhausting, and frustrating—we need to talk more about this and what we can do to get the help we need.
I was surprised to discover that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men in Canada experience a Postpartum Mood Disorder (depression, anxiety, blues, or psychosis). These are numbers much higher than I anticipated.
I turned to local groups to better support parents and found one called Life With A Baby, located in Ontario. I was chatting with Claire Kerr-Zlobin, the founder of that organization and a mother who experienced PPD, who shared these two misconceptions about Postpartum Depression:
1. You can experience Postpartum Mood Disorder and still be in love with your baby. Many think this isn’t the case. I mention this because I want parents and their partners to reach out for help before talking themselves out of it by saying, “I still love my baby, so I guess I don’t have PPD.”
2. The media mostly reports cases of Postpartum Psychosis (PPP), not PPD. After Lisa Gibson and her two children passed away, I jumped on my computer to write a post (here is the link to that one), wanting to make sure the media didn’t portray her as a “monster.”
Extreme cases of PPP are usually what we see in the news, which can sometimes confuse parents who might think their own thoughts aren’t serious enough to warrant seeking help. PPD has a wide range of feelings, thoughts, and associated behaviours—some parents cry often and some have a strong urge to walk out the door (I had both) or hurt their children.
Dr Cindy-Less Dennis presented at a recent Life With A Baby conference, where she shared that social supports prevent depression up to fifty percent of the time. Many moms become isolated and experience a private hell. Knowing this can be avoided has become Kerr-Zlobin’s personal mission—prevention is the key for her. Her belief is that, “All new parents deserve a healthy start for their families.”
If you are struggling in any way, please reach out. Here are links to two excellent groups with PPD and PPP support information:
If you happen to golf, we’d love for you to join us in a fun tournament to raise funds for PPD support, on July 7th, at Thornhill Golf and Country Club. Please click here for more information. I will be there! I’d appreciate very much if you’d share the information for this event, so those who are past this phase can lend a hand, too.
I continually post free parenting support on my Facebook page—please feel free to learn and ask your questions there.
My name is Sharon and I had postpartum depression with both my children. This is my story . . .
Do Dads Get Depressed, Too? Apparently they do, but nobody, especially the media, seems to care.
Big, wild, emotional reactions from children can be cause by a few different conditions. Sometimes the child feels fear, anger or sadness and needs to release that or sometimes the child has learned that freaking out works (that she will get what she wants if she blows up.)
The other, more common reason for big emotional outbursts is when the child hits a tipping point while in a compromised state—overtired, hungry, over stimulated or played out. When a child is sleepy and hungry, or has had it with sharing her favourite toy, she might not be able to tolerate that her colouring page is ripped and can’t be fixed.
If your little one starts shrieking, “FIX IT! Make the tear go away!!” and your attempts at rationally explaining to her that tape will help, but rips can’t be undone, the reptilian part of her mind has probably taken over.
This is the part that is responsible for protecting ourselves by making us ready to defend. In this state, the energy in our bodies goes from being calm and cool to pumping us up for fighting, shouting, jumping or running (called the fight-or-flight response). A person’s self-talk in this state might be something like this, “That’s it! I’ve had it with things going wrong!”
To help her make the shift from that irrational part of the brain to the part that is calm and rational, try these steps:
When a child (or parent) is in fight-or-flight, the first order of business is to reel in that response by slowing the breathing and heart rate down. (For parents, it is time to kick in your calm-down plan.)
It’s best to not try talking to a shouting person. If it doesn’t look like your child is going to be able to self-regulate (know what she needs to calm herself down), you’ll need to facilitate this for her.
Put your focus on slowing that irrational defense response and helping her feel safe and heard. A few ways to do this are: holding her close while drawing long lines down her back beside the spine, sitting close to her and doing some deep breathing—sometimes when a person hears slow breathing, she will start to do it, too, and opening your arms for a hug.
A great resource for more information about self-regulation is www.self-regulation.ca
If your child shrugs your calming efforts off, find a way to give her the need that she is missing. For example, you can quietly put some cut fruit on the table near her and walk away to get yourself a glass of water. Walking away gives your child a moment to see and consider the food in front of her, but removes the power struggle that you want her to eat.
When I know that my youngest child’s complete meltdown is because he is in dire need of a nap, I’ll quietly scoop him up and draw lines on his head from the crown of his head, over his forehead and down his nose. I slowly hold my hand over his eyes as I do this, which always makes them close. If I do this enough times, he will keep them closed. Let me know if this works for you, too!
If she takes the bait (accepts your hand on her back/ starts eating), then offer a nice long hug. Once she is all the way calm, it is time to train her to look for a solution.
You can say something like this, "Hmmm... the paper is ripped. Our options are to tape it or get a new one. Which do you like better?"
If your child is old enough to consider the options herself, you can word it like this, “Okay, that paper is ripped. What are our options now?”
A little while after your child has had a rest, been fed, and had time to regroup, explain to her what was happening in her body. Some children feel afraid of big, emotional outbursts so if you explain the process her body was in, that helps grow awareness and improves her ability to self-regulate next time. Please note that it might take several repetitions of these steps for a child to start her own calm-down plan—you might still need to facilitate it until she can take the reigns.
Start by using an “I see you…” statement to identify the feelings she had. You can try using language like this: “I saw you get very mad. The paper was ripped and you didn’t want that. Sometimes when we are very mad, our mind stops thinking straight so we have to help that part, our freak out part, calm down so our smart part can start working again. When we can think, then we know how to fix our problems.”
The mantra I use to help kids remember this is, “Calm first. Talk second.”
I use the terms “smart part” and “freak out part” to describe rational responses and irrational reactions—go ahead and find words that work for your family. An excellent book that explains all of this brain-talk in greater detail is THE WHOLE-BRAIN CHILD by Dr Dan Seigel and Tina Payne Bryson, PhD.
Need more information? I post free parenting tips, tricks and resources over on my Facebook page.