I vividly remember standing toe-to-toe with my 3-year-old boy. He was mad and absolutely refusing to obey me. I tried raising my voice, but it did nothing. He was NOT going to listen!
I stood there on the verge of tears and cried out to the Lord. “Lord, help me! I don’t know how to get him to obey!” I didn’t audibly hear a voice, but in my spirit, I heard, “Give him a hug!” “Are you kidding me?” I thought, “Give him a hug when he is acting like this?” I heard it again, “Give him a hug.”
In frustration, I paused. Then I said, “Evan, do you need a hug?” He shook his head “yes” and started sobbing. As I hugged him, he looked up at me and said, “I’m sorry, Mommy. I was wrong.” We held each other close and a few minutes later we had a healthy conversation and my son then did what I had asked him to do.
I was blown away! His heart did a 180-degree change in just a few seconds. How did that happen?
Science backs up the power of a hug
The emotional center of the brain is known as the limbic system. During moments of stress or fear, a small structure called the amygdala sounds the alarm and the limbic system takes over the brain. The brain is no longer thinking rationally, but instead, feelings run wild.
Often we attempt to rationalize with people when they are upset, but rationalizing will only further irritate them. The limbic system does not respond to words spoken but does respond to touch and aroma. That’s where the power of a hug comes in.
A hug triggers the release of oxytocin in the brain. Oxytocin is known as the “love hormone” and helps a person to relax. It lowers the heart rate and decreases the stress hormones cortisol and norepinephrine. As this period of relaxation takes place, the rational center of the brain, known as the prefrontal cortex, is able to get control again. At that point spoken words are very effective.
*For more information on how aroma impacts emotions, check out this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8B0lpAdNB7Q
Lessons I Learned from Our Power Struggle
- Seek God for wisdom and trust Him with the results.
- When you feel a power struggle coming on, stop, pray and give a hug.
- During times of “fight or flight,” deep pressure touch is much more effective than words.
- This concept is important to remember when dealing with spouses too.
Life is a whole lot easier when we learn simple strategies to communicate during stressful situations.
Have you given a hug today?
1 Peter 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. (NASB)