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Get Curious, Not Furious – A Mantra For Challenging Behaviors

As a mother of two boys, one biological and one adopted, I’ve encountered my fair share of challenging behaviors from my children. From defiant outbursts to tearful meltdowns, these moments often left me feeling overwhelmed and at a loss for how to respond. Yet, amidst the chaos, I’ve come to embrace a guiding principle that has transformed my perspective: “Get curious, not furious!”

This simple yet profound mantra has become a script I say to myself when my child’s challenging behavior begins to push my buttons. It reminds me to pause, take a breath, and approach these behaviors with an open heart and a curious mind.

Whether my children’s struggles stem from their early experiences or innate temperament, I’ve learned that behind every outburst, every defiance, lies a story waiting to be unraveled—a story of unmet needs, buried emotions, and unseen wounds.

In the past, I might have met such behavior with equal measures of anger and authority.  Using Jesus as my model, I’m choosing to respond with curiosity. Jesus invites us to come to him with our burdens, promising to give us rest (Matthew 11:28-30).

This invitation reminds me of the importance of creating a safe space for my children to express their emotions and share their struggles. By embracing curiosity and seeking to understand their hearts, I can extend the same love and compassion that Jesus showed to others.

Instead of reacting with frustration, I pause, wanting to respond with intention. I take a few deep breaths and begin to wonder: What could be driving this behavior? What unmet need lay beneath the surface? Instead of seeing my child’s behavior as a personal affront, I began to see it as a desperate plea for understanding and connection.

What is my child trying to tell me, but they cannot yet put words to it? Behind every challenging behavior lies a need longing to be met, a wound waiting to be healed, and a story waiting to be heard.

Every moment of conflict provides me with an opportunity for connection, growth, and healing. By embracing curiosity instead of frustration, I not only gain a deeper understanding of my child’s struggles but also forge a stronger bond based on trust and empathy.

And though the road is still very rocky at times, I walk it guided by the transformative power of curiosity and love. This is not just a practical strategy, it is a reflection of the love and compassion that God has shown me.

Jesus approached each person he encountered with a heart full of love and a willingness to understand their struggles. He saw beyond the surface, recognizing the deeper needs and longings of the human heart.

By “being curious and not furious,” I am modeling the unconditional love that God offers to each of us, regardless of our struggles or shortcomings. In doing so, I am nurturing deeper connections, fostering healing, and building a foundation of trust that will endure for a lifetime.


  • Tristen McGhee

    Tristen married her husband Max in 2000. They have 2 kids (plus 2 dogs), so she understands the complexities of life and the importance of strong relationships. Tristen is a certified Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI®) Practitioner, a loving adoptive mom, and a dedicated foster/adoptive parent trainer. Her extensive experience has allowed her to guide vulnerable families towards a path of hope and healing, nurturing bonds that truly matter. Her advocacy for children with early childhood trauma backgrounds has driven her to pursue a Master of Education in Trauma and Neuroscience, deepening her knowledge to make an even greater impact. In addition to her professional accomplishments, Tristen is an adoptive mom who wears multiple hats. She's a Trust Based Relational Intervention Practitioner and a Foster Kinship Continuing Education Trainer, dedicating over a decade to developing curriculum and advocating for foster and adopted kids. What sets her apart is that she lives and breathes the unique challenges that foster and adoptive families face every day. Her unwavering passion lies in helping these families discover hope and healing on their journey of raising children with relational trauma backgrounds.

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