Sometimes our kids can really be annoying! Right?! They know just how to push our buttons. We’ve already told them umteenth times and yet they are still doing the very thing that has been annoying us. They “SHOULD” know by now to stop it. The problem is they don’t or they can’t. We think they can because they CAN do so many things so why can’t they do this? And we also think we could or would stop or actually did stop as a child, so why won’t they?
In cases like these, our kids can’t. Did you know that a child’s prefrontal cortex is still developing into their late twenties? Yes! the TWENTIES! Our childrens’ rational, logical thinking part of the brain is still developing and not yet able to connect to their emotional or limbic system in times like these and they physically do not have the ability to do the very thing we think they should be able to do.
You can learn more here – Dan Siegel’s Hand Model of the Brain
Doesn’t this shift your perspective? Having this awareness is key to reducing your suffering when your child is doing that annoying thing. Telling them to stop or more likely, yelling at them to stop isn’t going to and doesn’t work because they are not able to connect these parts of the brain. We say things like, “Didn’t you hear what I just said?” and the answer is no, they didn’t. They couldn’t. It’s truly as if you are yelling and they can’t hear you. At these times our kids are in fight, flight or freeze response and the neural pathways are not available to them.
So what to do?
With awareness, we can have understanding. We can offer a supportive and calming presence to help ground our kids and bring them back to the present moment. We can sense that they are not doing something to us but are in a state of unease themselves. Consider this, if a friend was in a state of unease, how would you respond? By yelling or with compassion? If you are in a state of unease, how would you like a friend to talk to you? If your child was physically sick, would you react differently? The path to freedom from our kids’ annoying behaviors starts with connecting to the knowledge that they are doing the best they can in this moment. If they could do better, they would.
We all want to suffer less in these moments, and to suffer less, we intuitively know what we need to do for our kids, bring the unease into neutrality and peace.