4 Ways to Keep Calm When Your Kid Is Pushing Your Buttons

4 Ways to Keep Calm When Your Kid Is Pushing Your Buttons

When they’re testing your patience, make sure you don’t lose your cool.


By Betsy Voreacos

I was once a very reasonable human being. I was quite good at diverting conflict, arbitrating resolution, and walking away before things got ugly.

And then I had kids.

I lost my resolve. I lost my composure. I lost my mind.

I engaged in full-out battles with my 6-year-old. Battles over picture day outfits. Battles over screen time. Battles over vegetables. And then came the wars - the teenage years. Breaking curfew. Unauthorized piercings. And simple eye rollings that escalated beyond anything I could have ever imagined. My kids, all three of them, are way smarter than I’ll ever be. At a very young age they figured out exactly how and when to push my buttons. And they did. Time and time again.

I often pictured the three of them sitting together, scheming, in my daughter’s attic bedroom.

“Let’s see who can make the steam come out of Mommy’s ears first!”

We’ve all been there. And we’ll all be there again. But the next time you’re about to lose it, these strategies can help bring you back from the brink.

Take a time out.
The easiest way to lose the war is to battle back. Hard as it may be, muster your inner-adult and take a deep breath. Do whatever it takes to swallow your words. If you need to walk away, do so. If you need to eat some chocolate, double the dose. Just remember that your reaction serves as a model for their future behavior.

Snap out of it.
When your child is being particularly persistent in making unreasonable demands, engaging in relentless banter or challenging boundaries, it can be oh, so hard to keep your cool. But sometimes, just reminding yourself to be mindful is all it takes to snap out of it before you get into it.

More from P&G everyday: The 9 Worst Places to Throw a Tantrum

“Snap a rubber band on your wrist,” suggests Carly Snyder, MD, a psychiatrist, physician, mother of three and host of a weekly radio show, MD for Moms. “And remember to snap out of the anger and frustration and snap into a calmer place where you can be more rational.”

Dr. Snyder also recommends lowering your voice, rather than raising it. Kids tend to tune out when they’re yelled at. An unexpected softer voice will calm you both down and help your kids to actually hear what you’re saying.

Validate, don’t retaliate!
While many parents may instinctively respond to a meltdown with a reprimand or punishment, treating the outburst as “wrong” or negative may do more harm than good, according to Fran Walfish, PsyD, Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent.

“When parents can acknowledge, invite, and openly validate angry feelings, their child becomes calm and feels accepted,” says Dr. Walfish. “This acceptance is what builds the child’s evolving self-esteem and is a prerequisite for all good relationships with peers, teachers, employers, spouses, and you, [the] parents.”

Take a look in the mirror.
Whether literally or figuratively, if you catch a glimpse of your beet-red face, it will help you check yourself when you’re in the throes of peril – and keep you from imploding. Listen to what you’re saying, how you’re saying it and how you’re acting.

Imagine that someone is taping the scene and posting it to social media. Chances are, you’ll either crack yourself up or horrify yourself right back into control.

Kids will be kids, and by definition that means they are button-pushers. But with a little bit of awareness, a whole lot of love, and even more patience, you’ll survive this amazing thing called parenting.

How do you keep from losing your cool?



Betsy Voreacos lives with her family a stone’s throw from Manhattan. An overly involved mother of three active children, Betsy has always been acutely aware of her shortcomings as a parent, not to mention those of her children. A freelance writer and blogger, she documents her life in the brutally honest Old Minivans Die Hard.

Image ©iStock.com/Brainsil


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