What to do When Your Button Gets Pushed

We all know what it’s like to lose it with a child. When that button gets pushed, you see red, your authority and sanity flies out the window and you say and do things you swore you never would. It feels like there’s nothing you can do about it—but there is. Once you know that button belongs to you, and your reaction is your responsibility, not your child’s to change so you can stay calm, the job of uncovering that button and identifying it is the next step. It’s a peeling away process, and the layers to be peeled are not at all obvious for most of us.

After a button-pushing situation, take the time to dig. It’s easiest to start with your reactions. If you didn’t like your reaction, write down what you did.

Reaction: When that happened, I blew up and screamed.

Then think about how you felt. Your emotions are one word. I felt like I was a terrible parent is a thought. The feeling might be hopeless.

Feelings: I felt used, resentful, unappreciated.

Okay great, you have identified your reaction and your emotions.

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Oct ’19 Q&A – The Rise in Suicide: Can strong boundaries make a difference?

Q. There were recently two child suicides in neighboring towns to us in less than two weeks, one of them a 13 year old. How does this happen? How can I protect my tween from a similar fate? I am at a loss. What is happening in the world??

A. Too many children all over the country seem to be feeling so forsaken that ending their lives is the only answer. How does anyone, much less a child, come to this conclusion? I cannot presume to have the answer. What we are left with is the question: How do we protect our children from such devastating despair?

In 2017, the suicide rate for 15-19 year olds was up 47% from 2000, the highest level in two decades. This doesn’t include 13 year olds. Much of the rise has to do with increased drug use and the effects of social media. But the question must address more fundamental layers. Many young people can resist drug use or moderate it. All are subject to social media. Some have addictive tendencies that are more vulnerable to drug use and some are victims of cyber bullying. This is not the result of poor parenting.

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Don’t Take It Personally

What happens to you when your child behaves less than perfectly? When he ignores you or she screams, “I don’t have to listen to you.” Some of you can respond effectively by changing your behavior and addressing whatever the situation is from a different or calmer place, with a different attitude, tone or posture. But probably many of you get your button pushed, think your child is out to get you and yell back behaving just the way you don’t want your child to behave.

The difference is the parent who takes it personally and the parent who doesn’t. So what makes the difference?

When I’m working with parents on this, I often describe the cartoon in my book “When Your Kids Push Your Buttons” on p.86. The mother is trying her hardest to deflect those oncoming critical remarks with a shield, but the onslaught catches her off guard, and she doesn’t get her shield up in time, so the remarks hit her hard. This perfectly illustrates taking it personally. Once those remarks, attitudes, behaviors are allowed to get past your shield (your boundary), it’s next to impossible to respond neutrally and effectively.

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Sept ’19 Q&A – What to Do About Lying

Q. My 9 yo son recently stole some money, told me he didn’t, and that his friends must have. Then he planted the money in his sister’s room to frame her before telling me to, “search my room”. I’ve no idea what to say or do. I asked him repeatedly. I left a pot out for the money to be put back anonymously, and then he hides it in his sister’s room.

A. This is a tough situation for all of you. I’m sure there are deeper issues besides the coverup of the money that have led to this situation and need to be addressed. I suspect that underneath the behavior (lying), which is always a signal to a deeper need, there are trust issues. Namely that your son doesn’t trust you because he has learned that you don’t trust him, and therefore he is doing what he can to get away with what he wants. Nothing wrong with a child trying to get what he wants. But when he becomes devious to do it, then there is a problem. The deviousness comes out of a fear that he can’t get what he wants otherwise. There is not trust.

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Talking to Your Kids About Gun Violence

Every parent in the US has justified fear for their children’s safety—as well as their own. Even though mass shootings are sparse, when two happen in one weekend, it feels like an everyday occurrence. As we enter the new school year, we wonder—could it happen here? Walking into a big box store or fast food restaurant can trigger the same fear. What is a parent to do or say to a child in this climate of gun violence? I don’t presume to have answers, but I share my thoughts on how to help ourselves and then our children manage horrible situations beyond our control.

We must remind ourselves that “normal” life is more prevalent than mass killings. Although they are on the rise, mass shootings account for less than 2% of annual gun deaths according to gun violence research. Fear and worry about shootings happening in their safe little town would not have helped the victims of these tragedies. Easy to say, I know, but if we are full of fear, that fear communicates to our kids. They become anxious. Our goal is to transmit messages of confidence and to maintain an open and honest family environment where all feelings are heard and conversation accepted.

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8 Suggestions for Teaching Mindfulness to Children

By Aimee Laurence

Mindfulness is good for all of us. It helps us be present as parents, choosing better responses instead of going with the first thing that comes to mind. It’s also good for children because it helps them pay attention, stay calm when they feel upset, and improves their decision making. In order to teach these skills to your children, you need to first establish your own practice so you can teach what you know. You also want to keep it simple so your children can understand that at its core, it means being aware of your thoughts, feelings, and what’s happening around you.

The purpose of teaching mindfulness to your children is to allow them to gain better awareness of their experiences, both inner and outer, to understand their thoughts and emotions, and to be better at controlling impulses. With that being said, you need to manage your own expectations, because it’s impossible that you’ll eliminate tantrums, or completely calm down your child – they are kids and it’s normal for them to be loud and exuberant. With this in mind, here are 8 different ways you can start introducing mindfulness to your children at home.

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Aug ’19 Q&A – Teaching Your Child to Handle a Bully

Q. My daughter is 8 years old. She is quiet, honest, kind, diligent, and the “dream child to teach”, the teachers say. She follows every rule to the T. On the playground, one of her better friends is starting to bully her. She was crying as she was telling me about the girl telling her to go into a dark shed on the playground. My daughter said she didn’t want to as she was afraid of the dark. The girl teased her for being a cry baby and insisted. Last week this girl told her she couldn’t play with their group and pushed her tray away. My daughter is afraid if she leaves the group she will have no one to play with. What should I do? I encouraged her to say STOP! and that you don’t like the way she is treating you, but she says that is not kind and she doesn’t want to be like this girl. She ‘practiced’ saying it but sounded like a mouse. Do I speak to the girl’s parents? Embarrassing. Or directly to the girl? Appropriate?

A. Your work is with your daughter to help her find her voice without prompting her to use your voice. “Stop” doesn’t work for her but something else will. Of course, we think we would know how to handle the situation if we were in it, and we want to tell our children what to do to solve it. Sometimes our suggestions work. But much of the time we are not helpful because we are simply telling them what we would do.

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Talking to your Kids about Substance Abuse

By Cassidy Webb

When I started using drugs at 15 years old, I thought my parents had no idea. I was positive that I hid it well,but I was wrong. I thought that because I was still playing basketball and making good grades nobody would know I was abusing drugs and alcohol.

My parents had always planned to move to a small town in Arkansas when I graduated high school so they could build a big beautiful home for retirement, so it came as a surprise when they abruptly told me we were moving the summer before my junior year.

Instead of being honest and telling me we were moving early in an attempt to drag me away from the group of friends I was getting involved with, they told me we were moving because they got a good deal on a piece of land to purchase. I didn’t find out until after I got sober that they were grasping for straws to save my life.

When we moved to Arkansas, nothing changed. I continued to use drugs. I was selected to be drug tested at my school. Since it wasn’t a public school, they were allowed to drug test any students who were involved in extracurricular activities. Upon failing the drug test, I told my parents the lie that I had only smoked weed once and just happened to get caught. I was simply given a slap on the wrist – not another word was said about my drug use.

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July ’19 Q&A – Work With Your Child on Issues that Bug You Most

Q. I currently feel like a failure as a parent. My 12 year old daughter is smart, well behaved, does well in school. However, there are 2 main areas that we often fight about resulting in a tense hostile environment at home. One is sneaking junk food. We have a policy for the kids to choose 2 junk items from the pantry after school. It generally works but my daughter ends up sneaking extras to her room. She cannot seem to stop herself from eating. I cannot constantly monitor her and increasing the ‘allowed’ unhealthy stuff on a daily basis is not an option.

The other habit is watching YouTube without my knowledge. She has to use the laptop for homework, and I cannot baby sit. I want to give her the independence of making the right choices in the long term. Watching YouTube distracts her from homework and impacts the quality of her work. And I do not approve of the type of videos she watches. They are age appropriate but have no enriching content and are a waste of time. I would like her to watch videos that will enrich her, improve her skills and help her grow as an individual.

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Making Peace with Fears and Doubts

How can we be so presumptuous as to think we know what is best for our children, what is the right thing for them to do, what are the right decisions for them to make? Plain and simple – we don’t know. We simply do not know, and to think we do, to believe we should know because it’s our job, not only puts us on a very fragile pedestal but truly hinders our relationship with our children.

We are so attached to being right when it comes to telling our children what to do, we overlook what might actually be right for them — and we don’t ask what they think.

Letting go means coming to terms with the fact that so much of their lives is theirs to figure out.

And yes, parenting is the hardest damn job on the planet, but it’s so much harder when you think it’s your responsibility to fix their problems or that their problems are your fault. Either you know you’re right — and who wants to live with that — or you are exhausted under the shroud of this job that you fear you are miserably failing at.

Our kids don’t belong to us. We have the privilege of being in their lives, learning from them, and watching them blossom. Our job is to raise these children with love and acceptance, not to mold them into the adults we want them to become.

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