How to Make Sure Your Kids Don’t Push Your Buttons

Even the most well behaved kids have the ability to get their parents worked up—even the sweet and loving ones. Here are seven tips to help keep your calm on.

Cheryl Butler
7-minute read
Episode #358

You’re out in public and it happens. Your stomach gets tight and twists into a pretzel knot. Your cheeks get flushed, and then turn flaming red. Your brow starts to sweat, your temple throbs, and by the time you’re clenching your fists, you realize it’s happening all over again—your loving child is once again pushing your buttons!

Not again, you tell yourself. You thought you had everything under control. That awesome pep talk you recently gave yourself is still ringing fresh in your mind, but even so—your little darling has once again manipulated you and now you are losing control and having a mini breakdown—in front of your child.

Kids push our buttons for various reasons.  They might be trying to get back at us for something we did such as telling them “no” they couldn’t go play at their friend’s house because they didn’t get their homework assignment done the day before.  Or they could simply be trying to get our attention and they know they can surely do that if they pester us and get us worked up.

Kids are born button-pushers. Even the most well behaved kids have the ability to get their parents worked up—even the sweet and loving ones.  When this happens, most of us tend to get to our breaking point and explode back at our kids. The other common result is we eventually give in. They wear us down so much we just cave. While both of those might be the easier approach, in the long run you will make life a lot better for your entire family if you don’t give in and keep your composure.

Mighty Mommy has been there, done that with her own eight kids, so here are seven tips to help keep your calm on and not fall into that same old button-pushing trap.

Tip #1:  Know Why Your Kids Like to Make You Upset

It’s totally natural when your loving cherubs want to make you upset. One tried and true reason is that by aggravating you, they feel like they have some control. Even if they are sent to their room or given a time out, the pleasure of seeing you lose it and fall apart is secretly gratifying to them. It might be back talk, or constant complaining or eye-rolling, but whatever the behavior, nearly every parent will occasionally lose their temper with their kids—I know I sure have. 

So it’s important to remember that every parent or caregiver will have their buttons pushed on occasion, or even a lot, and sometimes it’s just a habit that your child has formed, and truthfully, it’s happened because we parents allow it to. Hey, we’re all human, both parent and child, so don’t feel isolated like it’s only happening in your family because it’s not—it’s completely normal.  See Also:  8 Tips For Dealing with a Defiant Child

Tip #2:  Pre-Plan Your Strategy

The best time to become equipped with the tools to dismantle your little button pusher is when everything is going well. While you are calm, think rationally about what caused your child to go into button-pushing mode in the first place. Figure out if there is a way for you to hand over some power to her, which is usually offering her some choices so she feels she has some control. For example, when my daughter was in elementary school she would always get off the bus and run into the house asking for playdates—every single day! I had four other smaller children at the time and there was no way I could run her around town to play after school. It got to the point that the minute I saw that big yellow bus roll into our neighborhood, I would practically hyperventilate. Once I finally realized the pattern and how I was being played each day, I came up with a new strategy. When she got off the bus, I had a couple of activity options for her to choose from. No, she didn’t think this was great for the first couple of weeks, but once she realized I wasn’t going to lose my cool and challenge her, she finally started accepting one of the options.  Eventually, she got off that bus and didn’t say “boo” about a play date!

Tip #3:  Have a Plan B

Even the best-laid intentions go awry. Once you think about why your kids yank your chain and then pre-plan how you’ll handle things while you’re feeling calm and peaceful, you need to have a back-up plan (Life’s all about Plan B after all!) about how you’ll cope if your initial strategy doesn’t pan out. This is really like playing “Devil’s Advocate.” For instance, if you’re going to talk to your child about something emotional like a curfew or taking away privileges for not doing homework, be prepared for when that child doesn’t react the way you want them to. Already know in your mind what you’re going to say or do. There are two ways to go about this: one is to calmly say to your child, “I have to talk to you about something important, let’s meet in the family room in 20 minutes, and I don’t want this to turn into a fight.” This gives your child time to prepare for the discussion. Also, during that time, you can decide what you’re going to do if your child starts to argue. The most obvious thing is to tell the child, “I don’t want to be talked to this way. I don’t like being treated like that,” and then leave the room. When you walk away, you take your power with you!  Parents who are mentally prepared for how they’re going to act when children react have a much greater chance of not losing their temper. See Also:  How to Stop Yelling at Your Kids


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.