Pushing your buttons is a skill at which most children excel. With utter amazement, we realize that in mere minutes our children can bring out our worst. I have used a possessed demon voice with my children during super stressful times. A voice I did not even recognize.
And I had no idea how I had reached this point.
Take heart, dear parents, I have struggled with this issue through 4 children. I have reflected and analyzed this problem. And I have some thoughts on handling these moments. Perhaps these tips will help you better deal with your kids pushing your buttons, too!
1. Take time to discover your temperament and your child’s temperament.
Temperament simply iss the way that we are wired, the dominant quality or qualities distinguishing someone. This is typically biologically based. For instance, are you energized by spending time alone or do you derive energy from being with others? This is one of many questions designed to help you discover your temperament.
Upon determining your temperament, it’s a wise idea to do the same for your children. Surprisingly, even newborns display their predominant temperament. A great resource for learning more about temperament is “I’m a Keeper,” by Ray W. Lincoln. This book has simple quizzes for adults and children. Other chapters explain the interaction between the different temperaments, and contain plenty of tips that will help you in all of your relationships.
2. Read about each developmental stage of your children.
It is beneficial to know that some of the behavior concerning you is developmentally appropriate and normal for their age. In other words, the behavior that is driving you crazy is to be expected. This realization can help you to have more patience as you realize this is a temporary issue. Of course, this stage will most likely be followed by a new difficult stage. Just remember to take a deep breath and to handle the demands one day and one stage at a time.
3. Figure out the emotions behind the behavior.
One of the most surprising things I learned is about anger.
Anger it is usually an indicator that the true emotion is sadness, fear, or frustration. I especially notice this with my three sons. Boys tend to hesitate to express sadness. Instead they channel this into angry attitudes and behavior. When your child is throwing things, or yelling at you, it’s easy to address only the upsetting behavior and to punish accordingly. This approach does not help the situation. Now they are not addressing the real cause because they are mad and frustrated with you.
The next time your child is expressing emotions in negative ways, try this approach instead. First, insist that they give you a big hug. It’s hard to hang on to hateful feelings when you are being held in a loving embrace. This will calm both of you and will de-escalate the situation. Next, look them in the eyes and ask them what is wrong? Normally, this will encourage them to share what is wrong. Even if they are not ready to talk, it will help them to know that you are there to listen.
Finally, after you have addressed the situation and discovered the true cause, follow up. Tell them that it is always okay to feel whatever they are feeling. However, it is not okay to handle those emotions in destructive ways. Ask them what they think the consequence for their bad behavior should be or how can they make amends?
4. Ask yourself, am I giving them enough attention?
This is crucial.
If your child is feeling ignored because you are giving all of your attention to something else, they will do whatever it takes to steal some of your attention. Even negative attention is better than none. Children are smart and know that if they start misbehaving, you are more likely to put down your phone/tablet or stop whatever you are doing to deal with them. So if your child is being particularly difficult, remember this behavior may be a cry for attention.
As soon as possible, give your child some quality time with you. I promise it is worth the investment to do this, and the rest of your day will be much smoother.
5. Remember you are the adult.
Think back to the last battle you had with your child.
How did you handle it? Did you keep your cool and talk in a calm voice to them? If so, bravo! However, chances are when the situation arrived, they were pushing your buttons and you allowed it. It is extremely difficult when a child is yelling at you and saying mean things to react in a patient and calm matter. Many times, I have found myself acting like a sibling to my 6-year-old daughter playing a ridiculous game of, “Did Not,” “Did So.”
Now, if my child says something mean I simply say, “Okay, but I love you.” If you keep saying that enough times, they will be quiet because they realize they are not getting to you. Most importantly, you will not have any guilt or regret for anything you said or did.