The world in which we live is violent in large part due to how we raise our children. We assume that children are small and undeveloped and without the need for freedom and personal choice. However, we traumatize them by making demands, creating unnecessary limits, not listening to them and not considering their needs or desires. In response, children fight back, recoil in fear or both, internalizing that they are not enough. As a result, children mature into the victim-tyrant mode where they alternate from one position to the other, either feeling victimized or being a tyrant who fights those who victimize him or her in an attempt to feel less victimized and more in control. The behavior becomes embedded and this is the pattern we continue to live unless it is cleared.
Think about how you feel when someone tries to control you. Children feel the same frustration when they are controlled. They want to be themselves and they want to be loved for who they are.
Children need unconditional love and guidance. Unconditional love does not mean they are left to run things the way they want. It means guidelines are explained with love and attention. It means that we don’t lose our tempers with our children and take out our frustrations on them. It means we value their thoughts and emotions and try to understand them. It means we listen to them without judgment and it means that we don’t fight with them. When we fight with our children, we teach them that fighting is a way of coping with things that don’t feel good. We teach them that fighting is a way to try to get needs met. We teach that violence is okay.
When we are angry with our children, the message they hear is that there is something wrong with them. They internalize that message and develop limiting beliefs about themselves as a result (such as “I am not good enough”). Defiantly, they fight that message or passively, they accept it (and then go about proving it). Because their survival depends on you, the adult, they need you to want them around. An example is a child who fights with her mother when the mother says she has done something wrong, but who acts out and is “the bad girl” (and does drugs and has sex) because she is told she is bad and does bad things.
When you are triggered by your child (or anyone else) and get outwardly angry, you have something that needs to be cleared (see http://www.changeworksinc.com/clear2.html to read about how and why this occurs). Briefly, there is a primary source from your past that has gotten stuck in your system that is being stimulated (the “trigger”) so you are responding to something the child is doing with more energy than you would without that stuck experience. Past issues get stuck when we resist the negative feelings associated with them. Then later when something occurs that reminds our body of this situation, the fight or flight response is stimulated. These triggers can be cleared with energy psychology (CLEAR, EFT, TFT, WHEE, etc.).
If our children are resisting us, it means there is some unmet need that they have of which we are not aware. Children fight when their fight or flight response is activated. Something has occurred that is perceived as threatening to them. They are afraid and feel they have to protect or prove something. Usually they fear that they are being rejected and this feels threatening to their survival. The child may be afraid that his mother’s anger means she doesn’t like him and will shun him. For example, a mother, after a dispute with her brother, declared she didn’t want to talk with him. And her son has not seen his uncle since. He always liked his uncle and identified with him. So now when the mother is angry, the son is afraid she will decide she doesn’t want to be around him either. So he fights with her (how he has been taught to deal with conflict) to try to prove that he is a good son.
Once this dynamic is begun, it usually gets worse. The mother wants the son to listen and do what she says. The son feels he isn’t loved or respected because his mother yells at him, so he fights her to try to be heard. They get more and more angry and distant because their needs aren’t being met. And they try harder to get them met by being angry and fighting. This pattern will not meet the parent’s or the child’s needs. If you are a parent and find yourself in this dynamic, you are the one who needs to take action to stop it. Decide to try a different method. The child just wants to be loved. Even though it feels difficult to love him because he is angry, you need to stop arguing. Show him love and listen to how he is feeling. This reduces resistance and defensiveness. Then explain your needs and make a request for something different from the child.
Be transparent with your children and teach them how to do the same. This requires that you examine what you are feeling and why you feel it. Examine the thinking that makes you angry (its not others that make you angry it is your thoughts about it). Then figure out what need of yours is not getting met. And then communicate this rather than impulsively acting on your feelings (acting out means you respond to the feelings by trying to change the situation, with your anger, manipulation, withdrawing, etc).
When communicating, describe what has happened (as opposed to judging it) and say how that makes you feel. The more transparent you can be the less conflict there will be. If you say, “I am feeling angry because of what you said,” then you are less likely to act out on that anger. You decrease the tension if you talk about what you feel versus yelling which escalates conflict. And if you do get angry, then you should apologize and describe the behavior that made you angry.
Learn how to language things so they are less hurtful. Don’t use accusatory language like, “you never help out” or “you are always bad.” People are rarely always or never anything, and it makes people defensive to say they are. It also raises defenses to start a sentence with “You….” It is accusatory. Describe what is being done and how it makes you feel. Then make a request for a different behavior. Provide choices—this gives children a sense of control which they need.
Don’t interpret their behavior. An interpretation is where you decide what it means when someone behaves a certain way. For example it is interpretive if you say someone is “bad” or “selfish” or “unlovable” or “uncaring” because they did something or said something. Saying these things will not change the child’s behavior and give you what you want, it will just make the child feel bad. These kinds of statements create blocking beliefs within the child. Unconsciously, the child goes through life believing s/he doesn’t get what s/he needs (love) because s/he is bad, unlovable and selfish (and possibly that you are bad, unlovable or selfish too).
Children and adults don’t like to be ordered or commanded. Choices help. Listen to Marshall Rosenberg’s tapes on “Non-Violent Communication.” He is very good at explaining communication that encourages cooperation and love. If you are a parent, and you have angry outbursts with your children, then there is something you need to clear. Energy psychology can help with this. To see a method where you can clear yourself, go to: www.changeworksinc.com and click on “try CLEAR now.” Or try EFT: http://www.emofree.com.
Julie Roberts, Ph.D.
Julie Roberts lives in Pennsylvania one hour west of Philadelphia. She consults with groups, individuals and children to help them move into their full potential. She specializes in personal and professional change so individuals overcome obstacles to productivity. She utilizes energy psychology, muscle testing, visualization, counseling, and Family Constellation work to help individuals clear the blocks in their life. She conducts workshops that improve leadership skills, teaches CLEAR®, and guides individuals through a healing change process. She has taught CLEAR in Russia and Nigeria and she is certified by the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology (ACEP).