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Why Children Push Your Buttons

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How to Cope with Anger, Stress, and Guilt
Guilt, anger, stress, fear, anxiety, and most other unpleasant emotions are self-defeating. Anger impairs your judgment; it rewards a power-seeking child. Guilt makes you compensate; you do not follow through. You feel sorry for not being a perfect parent, and you try to make it up to your child by giving in.

These feelings interfere with successful parenting. They inhibit your relationship with your children. They can cause misbehavior to increase. Learning how to cope with self-defeating emotions and beliefs will increase your happiness as a person, a spouse, and a parent.

If you want to reduce the amount of negative emotions in your life, you must believe two things: you control your thoughts, and your thoughts control your emotions. Therefore, you control how you feel. You control happiness, joy, and excitement. You control guilt, anger, stress, and fear.

I lived many years believing that unsafe drivers, poorly planned freeways, dead car batteries, and uncapped toothpaste made me angry. I used to believe that untrained sales clerks and incompetent waitresses made me angry. I now realize that these circumstances are part of life. I can choose to be angry or stay calm. I prefer staying calm. I allow much less anger in my life than I did ten years ago. I still get angry. When I do, I realize what has happened, and I let it go.

I once felt guilty for not having all the answers and failing to meet the needs of every parent and child that came to me for help. I now accept my humanness and imperfection. It is easy to succumb to self-defeating behaviors. Resisting them takes practice.

You will always be tempted to give in to self-defeating emotions. You will have spontaneous reactions that seem impossible to control. You might still feel guilty and angry when your child has a tantrum in public, or become discouraged if your son gets a failing report card. However, you can do a lot to improve your day-to-day experience. A certain amount of child misbehavior and aggravation is part of parenting. Children can create frustration and discouragement. Their misbehavior can push your buttons. If your children push your buttons, take preventive action. Make a plan to protect yourself.

Defending Yourself Against Button Attacks
Some parents find it helpful to have a technique that diffuses their anger. Go sit in your room for a few minutes. Listen to music. Go for a walk. Count to twenty-five. Think peaceful thoughts. Reward yourself when you do survive a button attack.

Do not expect perfection from yourself the first week. Make your goal more realistic. If one of your children successfully pushes your buttons, do not put yourself down. Do not think that you are a failure. You are human. Do not let your disappointment keep you down. Encourage yourself just as you would encourage one of your children. Do not dwell on your inadequacies. Focus on the times that you were able to maintain your control in frustrating situations. Think about the times you were successful.

Your buttons have an important influence on the way you discipline your children. Conflicts can be resolved without anger. Stay calm; your communication will be more effective, and punishment will be more effective. You present yourself as a model for self-control, and your children learn more effectively.

You may have to protect your buttons for weeks before you see results. Your children will test you-that's how it works. Even though you are not getting angry anymore, your children will still try to push your buttons. Do not give in to their attacks.

What happens if you do give in occasionally? What happens if you still get angry once in a while? You will probably make the problem worse. You will be encouraging your children to push your buttons more, not less. That's why it is so important to protect your buttons. Be strong. Be consistent.

How to Express Anger Constructively
There will be times when you get angry. Occasional anger is normal. Do not feel guilty about it. It is okay for your children to know that you have a boiling point. It is not okay to let your anger get in the way of good discipline.

Many parents get angry but do not say or do anything about it. This is a mistake. This is the San Andreas syndrome. Pressure builds and builds, and then the earth quakes. We let our anger build and build until we crack. This confuses children: "I have had two other fights with my brother today. This time Mom acts as though we killed somebody." Do not save anger. When you save anger, it can become uncontrollable.

Let it out slowly and in small amounts. Tell your child what he did, how you feel, and why you feel that way: "When you fight like that, I get angry because you could get hurt or break something," "When you don't call home, I get worried that something might have happened to you."

Children push your buttons to get a reaction. They hope you will get upset and change your mind or give in. Do not let your emotions get the best of you. Dealing with misbehaviors as they happen helps you vent without blame, and thus keeps you from saving anger and then exploding. It is better for your mental health, and it is better for your children.

What Are Your Button Pushers?

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From How to Behave So Your Children Will, Too!. Copyright � Sal Severe, 2000. Used by arrangement with Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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