Ever feel like your kid is pushing your buttons on purpose, as if they’re trying to force a reaction? You may be right; at some point or another, your child will do things that drive you nuts — and it’ll seem like they’re doing them simply because they want to drive you nuts. From eye rolling to talking back, refusing to do homework to staying out past curfew, every parent has buttons… and every kid knows how to push them!
While this behavior is normal, it doesn’t make it any easier when it’s happening to you. And since your child looks to you for clues about how to react, it’s essential that you role model appropriate behavior and keep your cool — again, easier said than done! These 4 tips will help you remain calm, cool and collected, even when your kid is doing everything he can to provoke a reaction.
Recognize Your Triggers
What sets you off? Take a moment, sit down and think about what your buttons are — because your child definitely already knows! Heightened self-awareness will help you both to avoid situations where your triggers are likely to be pulled, as well as helping you realize what’s going on when your child pushes you.
Recognize His Triggers
Similarly, acknowledge situations that are likely to provoke button-pushing behavior. When the scene gets stressful, he’s more likely to try and take advantage of your vulnerable emotional state. By reducing the chances that tension will occur in the first place, you’re removing the opportunity for him to try and get you all riled up.
Avoid situations that have led to this behavior in the past. Ensure that house rules and behavioral expectations are clear, as well as the consequences for breaking those rules. Writing them down and posting them in a visible place removes ambiguity and helps create a setting that’s conducive to calm. Remember, your child takes cues from your emotional state, so if you’re ready to blow, he will be too.
Shift Your Point of View
Changing the way you perceive annoying behavior — like button pushing — changes the way to react to those behaviors. Rather than just immediately reacting angrily, based on the idea that your child is just being horrible, think about the reasons behind his behavior. How have you reacted in the past? Has your child learned that pushing your buttons will get him what he wants? Has he learned that it makes you frustrated? Does he want you to react in anger so that you’ll feel guilty later?
Understanding why he’s acting a certain way will make it easier to react calmly. Consider that some of your personal buttons were probably installed when you were a child. By recognizing your own triggers and retraining yourself, you can react in a positive, productive manner, rather than how your child wants — with stress, anger, frustration, and the guilt that inevitably follows.
When your child is engaging in a button attack, having a defensive strategy planned ahead of time can help you remain calm. Listen to your body; when you feel those “I”m about to get angry” signals, go in another room for a few minutes. If you can’t leave your child, try counting to 10 (or 100) and taking deep breaths, while clenching and unclenching your hands in rhythm with your breath.
After you’ve given yourself a “time out,” model behavior by engaging calmly with your child. Show him an appropriate way to express anger and frustration by speaking calmly, telling him how his behavior makes you feel, and inviting him to explain his emotions calmly.
Remember, your buttons have developed over a lifetime, and it’ll take time and practice to change them. You already know that losing your temper and reacting with anger doesn’t work; after all, if it did, you wouldn’t be reading this article! With time and practice, you can retrain yourself — and your child — to express frustration and deal with emotions in more positive ways.