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When Kids Push Your Buttons... Parenting tips for frustrating days

“What did you just do?!” Whether it’s your preschooler coloring on your kitchen wall or your teen breaking a family driving rule, parenting with patience can be a challenge! There are days you wonder how you’ll survive. You lose your cool. You say things out of anger. You know that you love this child, but you may not like him at the moment. Here’s the good news, you’re not alone. In fact, if you go to your social media account and post “You won’t believe what my kid just did….”, I promise you will hear from many other parents whose child can match or top your child’s antics! What should we do? I will be the first to admit, I was a reactive parent. I didn’t intend to be that way, but with 3 kids I was outnumbered and exhausted by the end of the day. They would go to bed and I would feel guilty for not being more patient. After all, they were just kids being kids. When I began looking for more effective discipline approaches than “Because I said so!” I discovered I was in the habit of reacting instead of responding to the kids. Today I’m going to give you an overview of this concept and share a technique I developed. Let’s work our way through this idea... Take a minute to think about the last time you were really mad at someone. Your heart was racing. Your jaw muscles were tense. You may have even had your fists clenched. In fact, you may be feeling some of those physical reactions right now just thinking about that person. In addition to the physical reaction, you may have experienced some emotional sensations as well. * Anxiousness

* Frustration * Anger When the body is tense and emotions are strong, you spontaneously saying or doing something you otherwise wouldn’t do. You are in a reactive state of emotional energy. I’m going to just say it, we’ve all been there! Those of us with teens, especially, know they can bring it out in us because they know what buttons to push. The good news: There is a calmer, less emotionally charged way of handling our parenting challenges! A different approach From a parenting perspective, I believe responding is a more effective way to deal with frustrations. What’s the difference? When we react, we immediately get into that high emotional state. When we respond we take a more intentional pathway. In fact, we can adopt the approach emergency first responders use: Assess the situation, evaluate the options, then chose which one will get the best outcome in the situation. One of my recent posts on social media asked, “What if you tried getting curious instead of furious?” I had parents reach out to me saying that it was one of the best pieces of strategy I’d ever shared! “It’s a game-changer,” said one parent. Ask yourself questions like: 1. Why did this set me off?

2. Is this really the catastrophe I’m making it out to be?

3. Does this have anything to do with things I’m dealing with?

4. Can I turn this into a teachable moment for my child?

If we can take a deep breath and analyze the situation, it can deescalate the emotional charge we initially felt. This, in turn, relieves the physical stress the body feels. Try using the B.A.R. Technique Breathe Instead of immediately reacting to a stressful situation, try taking a few deep breaths first. Close your eyes, inhale for a count of 4, exhale to 4. By choosing to slowly breathe in and calm the mind, you are signaling the rest of your body to relax the tension as well. Slow, intentional breaths give us time to pause and gather our thoughts, exhale and release the physical tension within the body. Now that you have released some of the physical tension move to step 2. Assess It is easy to get caught up in emotion during stressful times. Problems seem bigger and our interactions with others are tense. When you have calmed down you can focus on the actual facts of the situation. 1. What do I know as fact? This is pulling out concrete, indisputable things such as “my teen drove to his friend’s house without permission” or “my preschooler drew on the wall with a marker.” 2. What am I assuming? There are times we jump to conclusions without all the facts. In coaching, we call these things “the stories I tell myself.” If your teen has challenged you before, you may be locked into the story that this child will always be a problem and he doesn’t care at all about your feelings.

3. What things in my own life am I attributing to my child?

If you were an absolute rule follower as a teen, then anytime your child doesn’t follow the rules it could cause you stress.

I had a client who hates to be idle. She feels she needs to be productive all day long. When she sees her son playing video games it makes her crazy! “How can he waste an hour of his day on those games?!” The need to “be productive” is a part of her personality, not his.

4. What teachable moments can I pull from this situation?

As parents, it’s our job to guide our kids, encourage them and empower them to make smart choices.


Now that you’ve assessed the situation, it’s easier to respond in a calmer, more rational way to your child’s misbehavior. It also gives your child a chance to explain their choices.

You were told not to do ______________ and yet you chose to do it.

I need you to tell me why you did this.

What are we going to do about this situation?

An interesting fact, the word “discipline” actually means “to teach.” When we step away from anger and look for teachable moments, then we are guiding our child towards responsibility, accountability, and problem-solving strategies.

Quickly going back to the teen in trouble for driving to his friend’s house, Mom discovered that his friend’s mom wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t pick him up from school. Instead of his friend having to walk home in the rain, he offered to drop him off at home. The family resolved the situation with an agreement that he would call home and clear things with Mom before making an exception to the rule.

Mom took a minute to breathe, assess the facts, then respond by listening and making an agreement with her son. No big blow-ups, no snap decisions on punishment. It was a definite change for the positive in their family!

When we use the BAR Technique in parenting we are modeling how to handle big emotions for our children.

If you’re ready to reduce your stress, try the Breathe, Assess, Respond technique with your children today!


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