What to Do When Your Child Pushes Your Buttons!

Image via Katie Hurley

Motherhood is filled with huge emotions, some positive and some, well, let's just say some are not so positive. We all know that the years are short, but the days are long, so we soak in the moments and try to stay positive as much as humanly possible. But, man, toddlers know how to push buttons! They're like little detectives. They follow us around, trying things out until bingo! — they find the one that makes us react. Then they do that thing over and over and over again, because if you're trying to get a reaction out of Mommy, you might as well go big.

Parenting is wonderful and fun and full of endless tiny miracles, but it's also exhausting, hard, and sometimes completely frustrating. As a fan of relaxation breathing, I know when I need to take a break and breathe it out, but my kids are older now. When you have toddlers on your hands, you can't necessarily find the time you need to hit the reset button. I remember those days. I remember when a trip to the bathroom doubled as a relaxation strategy. It was the only available alone time!

The truth is, is that we put so much into parenting our children that we sometimes forget to care for our own souls along the way, and that can increase our level of frustration.

We teach our kids how to deal when the chips are down, but do we have our own set of skills to cope with our moments of frustration? Moms need their own coping tool kits to weather the ups and downs of parenting, and that begins with prioritizing needs.

Image via iStock

Me time

Frustration has a way of growing in size when moms ignore (or put off) their own needs. Part of being a parent is taking care of your own physical, emotional, and social needs. You don't just stop being a social being with emotional needs simply because you have a child. In fact, sometimes those needs increase post-baby. Parenting can be isolating, particularly in the early years.

Make time for friendships, even if finding time for them is hard. Due to my husband's work schedule, I can't get out much for “Mom's night out.” I have one friend who comes to visit me once a month. After the kids are asleep, we have a glass of wine and chat about everything, and that resets our souls.

Find time for exercise and find a lifeline. We all need to vent at times and make room for healthy habits. That decreases frustration over time.

{ MORE: To the Parent Who's Raising Their Children Differently Than They Were Raised }

stressed lady
Image via iStock

Two conversations

I like to follow the two-conversation rule when frustration strikes. The first conversation is the one you only have with yourself behind closed doors (back to the bathroom you go!). This is the “What on earth were you thinking? Why would you possibly put paint all over that?” conversation.


Once you vent that out in a loud whisper out of earshot of the kids (venting can help you gain perspective), it's time have the second conversation. This is the calm version of the conversation that includes problem-solving skills and a few deep breaths. Get your feelings out first; handle the source of the frustration later. 

{ MORE: Utah Becomes the First in the Nation to Legalize Free-Range Parenting }

Image via iStock

Talk about it

As parents, we seem to be conditioned to shield our kids from our emotions. I'm not sure when or why this started, but stuffing our own emotions to protect our kids doesn't do them any good. There is a big difference between yelling at the top of your lungs because you're frustrated and sharing your thought process with your kids.

Saying “I'm feeling frustrated, and I'm not sure what to do, so I need to take a few deep breaths right now” shows your kids that you are human and that you are working through big feelings, just like they do. In fact, demonstrating this kind of self-control to your kids teaches them how to do the same. 

Image via Flickr/ bortescristian

Practice relaxation

Deep breathing is the best way to reduce frustration in the moment. It calms your senses and relaxes your body. Try one of these strategies to practice deep breathing as a family:

  • Blow up pretend balloons complete with fancy designs
  • Use straws to blow cotton balls from one end of the table to another
  • Blow bubbles — real or pretend
  • Count back from ten while taking deep breaths
  • Put a stuffed animal on your belly and watch it rise and fall with each deep breath
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What to Do When Your Child Pushes Your Buttons!

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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