Children push our buttons. Many times your child’s behaviors, words, and expressions are positive. They can make you to stop and look at the world in a different way or cherish a moment in time, like the first time they tell you they love you. Sometimes, however, your child’s behaviors may cause you to feel embarrassment, frustration, and even anger, and as a result you may feel like yelling or spanking your child or calling him or her names. These responses are ineffective and may increase your child’s risk of becoming a bully; they may affect his or her performance at school and may cause long-term issues for your child.
Here are some ways to cope when your child pushes your buttons:
Forgive yourself. If you have yelled at your child, called her a name or spanked him out of frustration, resolve to stop and let it go. All parents have moments they are not proud of. The most important time in your child’s life is the present, and it’s not helpful to guilt-trip yourself about your past responses.
Know that you are not alone. If your child is throws a tantrum in the grocery store, bites another child, or fights with a sibling at home, know that you are not the only parent going through this. Just because your child does something wrong doesn’t make you a bad parent; it’s natural to have feelings of anger and frustration. Many parents struggle with the same situations and feelings about their children’s challenging behaviors.
View behavior as communication. Children’s behavior is one way they communicate their needs, thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Sometimes it can feel like your child is trying to make you angry. Be patient with your child and know that his or her behavior is a reflection of what he or she is feeling; it is how your child is trying to communicate with you.
Understand your child’s behaviors. Read about your child’s age and what stage of development he or she is in. Many times your child’s behavior is a normal part of development. You can minimize frustration by learning what to expect.
Seek support. Parenting is tough, and modern living adds additional burdens to many families that may be struggling to balance work and home life. All parents need support. Having someone to talk to who knows what you are going through or who can watch your child in an emergency or when you need some time to yourself can make all the difference in the world.
Understand your own response. Before yelling, or spanking your child or calling him or her names, stop and think about your response. Maybe you are feeling frustrated or angry about something other than what your child is doing. Take a moment to deal with your own emotions before responding to your child. Yelling, name calling, or spanking may stop your child’s current bad behavior, but it doesn’t resolve the underlying causes of that behavior. It may even lead to long-term issues with your child; affect his performance at school or her ability to cope in the world.
Get on the same page with your co-parent. Children thrive on routines and consistent responses, and they are more likely to listen when they can anticipate the responses they will receive from their parents and caregivers. Whether you live with the child’s co-parent or not, it’s important to be consistent with discipline. Agree on the disciplinary techniques you will use and when you will use them. Don’t hesitate to seek professional assistance to help mediate these discussions or to create a safe space in which to discuss these important issues.
The goal of effective discipline is to raise a happy and healthy child who understands that there are limits and boundaries in the world as well as fair and consistent consequences for inappropriate behaviors. Yelling, name calling, and spanking are ultimately ineffective at creating the type of environment in which children thrive.
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