Tag Archives: emotional triggers

When Your Kids Push Your Buttons

We all know the feeling. Our child says or does that certain something, we see red and react in ways we regret. We feel out of control, blame the child, and set up our next power struggle. We “go on automatic” and lose our maturity and authority. But we have a choice. We can either punish our child for pushing our buttons or take a look at what our buttons are, why we react the way we do, and take responsibility for our behavior—like an adult.

You know your button has been pushed when:

  • You engage in the “Road Rage of Parenting”
  • You hear your mother or father saying those words you swore you never would
  • You feel enraged, hopeless, guilty, resentful, etc.
  • You catastrophize and project your child into the future
  • You know you could never have gotten away with what your child just did

Our child’s behavior triggers an old wound. Our buttons were planted long ago from messages we took in from our parents’ reactions to us. Those old painful emotions get tapped, it hurts, and we retaliate—but we don’t realize what’s happening. To stop this automatic reaction, first we must recognize that our reactions are caused by our own perceptions.

We believe that our child’s behavior causes our feelings and reactions. “You make me so mad. How many times do I have to yell before you’ll listen?” The unintended message sent is you are responsible for my emotions and my behavior. We leave out a critical piece—the assumptions we make.

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Fear—It’s what anger is really about
Angry child
“If only I didn’t get so angry!” Parents know their anger causes all sorts of problems—but what do you do about it?

Fear is what provokes anger. And fear is where parents live a great deal of the time.

He’s so mean to his sister, how’s he going to treat his wife?

She never listens. How will she ever get through school?

He is so violent. He’ll be in jail by fifteen.

She’s so bossy. No one will ever like her.

He’s addicted to screens. How will he ever interact with anyone.

Other kids listen to their parents. Why won’t mine? What have I done wrong?

Handling the problem that faces you in the moment requires staying in that moment with your child. Let’s say your four year old is having a meltdown to end all meltdowns. You have told him to stop hitting his little brother. He falls apart, screams and stomps, tells you to go away, screams “no” at every attempt you make to calm him down. It’s easy to let fear take over. What kind of a monster is he turning into? He can’t just hit his brother. He has to have a consequence? He’s never going to learn. What have I done to create this?

And fear leads to anger. It’s logical. If these fears sabotage rationale thinking, you will get angry at your child in an attempt to correct his behavior thereby alleviating your fear. (It really is all about us). Your job, after all, is to correct your child’s unsocial behavior and teach him to be kind. So you yell, scream, and threaten to take favorite things or activities. That will surely make him think twice and stop this horrible behavior.

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