Understanding Emotional Triggers


You specifically told your daughter to be home by 9pm. It’s almost 10 o’clock, and you’re sick with worry.

As you pick up the phone to call her again, the front door opens. You can’t contain your emotion…

Where have you been? Do you realize how worried I was? You never answered your phone! I said to be home by 9, not 10!

Feeling like she’s under attack, your daughter fires back.

Why are you making such a big deal out of it? I was the last one to get dropped off, and my phone died. It’s only been an hour…who cares?

You care. Cheeks flushed with heat, you give enough consequences to last until your child’s 18th birthday.

If you can relate to this challenging parenting scenario, you’re not alone. It’s common for parents to go from 0 to 100 when their values are compromised. In this case, the parent values safety, communication and rules around curfew. The parent feels like the daughter’s response mocks these values, which triggers a strong emotional reaction.

You can plan a more calm, effective response to your child’s behavior when you recognize your emotional triggers.

Are you angry because your daughter appears to take curfew lightly? Do you feel hurt because your daughter doesn’t acknowledge your worry? Are you concerned with safety because of something that happened to you when you were young? These are all good questions to ask yourself. Additionally, being aware of what “pushes your buttons” will help you recognize when you’re in danger of overreacting.

There are also physical sensations that come with being triggered (i.e., heat rushing to your cheeks, tense muscles and ringing ears). If you feel these coming on, it’s a good time to put some distance between yourself and your emotional response to your child.

You can say to yourself, “I don’t have to fix this right now. I can talk about it tomorrow, when I have a clear head.”

Going for a walk, talking with a friend or spending some quiet time alone are also good ways to decompress. For more help with losing your temper, check out How to Stop Yelling at Your Kids: Use These 10 Tips.

Hang in there – you are not alone. We’re here when you need to talk!

All the best,

Marissa S., Empowering Parents Coach

“Often without realizing it, we are parenting from a sense of panic, urgency and fear; we are reacting to triggers that are continually setting off internal alarms.” – Debbie Pincus, MS LMHC


Marissa is a proud mom to two boys, age 12 and 8. She earned her degree in Sociology from Saint Joseph’s College of Maine and has been a 1-on-1 Coach since 2011. Prior to coming to Empowering Parents, Marissa gained experience working as the House Manager of a group home for teenage boys, as a Children’s Mental Health Case Manager, and also spent several years working on the Children’s Unit at a Psych. Hospital.

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