Emotional outbursts can be spurred in most of us. We find ourselves yelling at our kids when our space has been upset. The same is true of our teens. They come home from school livid at something that happened and instead of dealing with the situation, they stalk through the kitchen screaming at us and what we’ve done that has ruined their lives.
I’ve been doing research for several years about our emotions and how they affect us as well as our kids. One of my kids has always been hypersensitive emotionally and the smallest thing could bring a mountain of inconsolable tears, or anger, or even full-on rage with a sibling being the targeted opponent. As a mom who hadn’t been taught to understand my own emotions, I was helpless to understand my child’s. Trial and error brought nothing but further anguish and louder communication (okay, yelling!) on both our parts.
What I’ve since discovered is that there is a small part of the brain called the amygdala that never lets us forget. It houses the emotional control center where the fight or flight response occurs. Everything we encounter runs through that emotional part of our brain before we can discern if it has a valid reason to respond. That center tells us if something is good, bad, or terrifying. If that part of the brain is triggered before we have time to give the situation cognitive thought, we will react rather than respond appropriately in a given situation. Years later, if we encounter a situation that brings about a similar fear or feeling, we will again react without thought. It is ingrained and “remembers” the feeling and causes us to respond accordingly even when we don’t understand why we did what we did.
New research that is out talks about the brain skills that many of us as parents haven’t learned. When we have emotional outbursts we need to pause so we can:
- Recognize the emotion
- Understand what our reaction is attached to from the past
- Identify what expectation we are holding onto that might solicit the out-of control response
- Transfer the emotion through our cognitive thought in order to form a better response
- Re-engage with an apology to re-set the relationship
Instead many of us keep doing what we’ve always done in similar situations as we emotionally erupt or we see many kids and adults alike resort to drugs and alcohol use to dull the pain within.
How can we teach our kids to establish emotional control when at times we don’t have the capacity to display what it should look like? If we were never taught these skills how can we pass them on to the next generations?
Life Model Works has a book out entitled Transforming Fellowship: 19 Brain Skills That Build Joyful Community to raise awareness of how emotional skills can transform relationships. While their book is focused on building community within the church, so many of the principles apply to us with our kids.
Scripture also gives us a clue:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
2 Corinthians 10:4-5
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,
Choosing to focus on the good even in painful or difficult situations can help us re-wire our brain and our emotional capacity. Learning to pause long enough to analyze the patterns or getting help from professionals can also help us gain control over our emotions. And when we are in relationship with others who struggle with emotional control it is important that we learn to take care of ourselves.
If you have kids that are struggling with emotional outbursts, With All Due Respect: 40 Days to a More Fulfilling Relationship with Your Teens and Tweens is a good place to start. In it you’ll find ways to interact with your kids and help them see healthy coping skills. If you have kids that are further down the path and are already into drug or alcohol addiction, I’ve discovered a new book that will help you get your life back. In her book You Are Not Alone: Hope for Hurting Parents of Troubled Kids Dena Yohe shares her story and practical tips for parents who are dealing with teens and 20-somethings who are on a destructive path. You can listen to her interview on Focus on the Family, Monday and Tuesday, August 21-22, 2017.
Praying that God will raise your emotional awareness as you parent this next generation.
“Let go…and Let God”,
Interested in leading a parenting Bible study that will have women talking and learning about emotional maturity? Want them to walk away with a WOW! experience? With All Due Respect will do just that and we promise to make it easy to lead. You don’t need to be a perfect parent; you don’t need to have perfect kids; and you don’t need to have ever led a group before.
For the next month we’re offering our new Small Group Leader’s Guide for only $5.95 so you can get your small group started right away. That means you can start a group at a greatly discounted rate!
Our Small Group Leader’s Guide is an easy-to-follow guide that will give you questions, exercises, and opportunities to engage with other parents as you think about your own parenting. If you know a mom who has kids that are 9 or 29 this study will be life-changing as they think about parenting. You can even get suggestions on how to run your groups from me. I love to engage with other moms and leaders and you can reach me through the website at www.greaterimpact.org.
So grab your friends, and grab a copy of the Small Group Leader’s Guide here .