When kids push your buttons, they are testing the waters to see how you will respond. They are watching closely and measuring to see how far they can go.
When this happens–and it will because that’s just what kids do–there are a lot of ways that a parent can answer. Which one of these is your go-to response?
Maybe this only happens when you are busy, tired, or already irritated. But blowing up at your children is actually you venting your frustrations. It’s not effective parenting; it escalates the situation and usually leads to both parties in a full-on fight which neither parent or child wins.
Walk Away in Disgust.
There’s a difference between giving yourself a time-out and walking away in disgust or shutting down and just leaving the room. My default response in an argument with my kids or husband was to clam up and just leave the room. I did this because I felt I was getting nowhere or I honestly couldn’t think of what to say or how to best handle the situation. I thought that walking out would do a better job of making my point.
But that tactic failed over and over. Never once did it solve a problem or end a conflict. Walking away in disgust or leaving the room in a huff without a word communicates that you are giving up and are not interested in resolving the situation.
Totally ignoring your child is not the best strategy either. If you are trying to communicate to them that their temper tantrum or their behavior is not affecting you and that it will not get them what they want, then explain that to them FIRST, then either ignore their behavior or send them to their room to vent on their own.
When my daughter was 10, she decided to have a full blown 2-year-old type temper tantrum and started screaming her lungs out. We told her that her screaming was not going to get her what she wanted, but if she felt the need to do so, she could do it in her room. So she ended up screaming in her room for a few minutes until she gave out.
Trying to feign ignorance can push your child to keep at it until they eventually get a reaction from you. It’s best to acknowledge the behavior and call it out, explaining that it won’t work and THEN ignore it.
Take Time To Respond.
The most effective way to parent when kids push your buttons is to respond instead of react. If you cannot thoughtfully respond to your child’s misbehavior or bad attitude, then give yourself a short time out to calm down and think through the situation. Your goal is not to punish your child, but to discipline or teach your child. So take a few minutes if you need to and ask yourself, “what does my child need to learn in this situation and what is the best way for me to help them learn it?”
If your child is very young, like 3 or younger, your time-out should be very short. You need to address the situation while it is still fresh in their little minds. But as your child gets older, you can take longer breaks. You may say, “I need to calm down and think about this for a few minutes; I will talk to you in a little while.” Or ” Your mom and I need to talk about this tonight. We will discuss it with you in the morning.”
What you say when you take the time to intentionally respond instead of react in a moment of anger will be two different things. Your goal should always be to help your child learn from their mistake, not feel punished or shamed.
Which One is You?
Of those four responses, which one is you? Maybe one day you flare up, but the next you are able to respond instead of react. Keep working towards the goal of always responding intentionally. This is the response that will nurture a strong relationship with your child and be the most effective in the marathon of parenting.
If you are struggling to respond instead of react, please schedule a free into consult here. I’ve got some tools that can help you.