“Of course my mother pushes my buttons… she installed them!” This is quoted from one of my coach training weekends. It sounds familiar, doesn’t it? (Moms, please don’t take offense. Feel free to insert “my father” if that is more accurate!)
When you read it, do you hear your child talking about you, or you talking about your own parents? Either way, we all have hot buttons that influence how we interpret what we hear and how we react. (By the way, sometimes what you heard isn’t exactly what the other person meant, but that’s an article for another day.)
As a parent, you have spent many years nurturing and protecting your child. Now this child is a teenager and thinks s/he is an adult… and doesn’t hesitate to tell you so (hot button)!
You may find yourself trying to impose your own logic and life experience (hot button). You may feel the need to fix it for them. After all, you’ve been there, done that, right? (hot button) This approach often leaves both you and your child frustrated.
When my children, now in their mid-20s, ask me when I will stop worrying about them, I tell them it won’t happen until I stop breathing. I’ll always worry about them. It’s what parents do. But there is a difference between thoughts and feelings, and actions and reactions. This is where you become aware of your button and don’t act on it.
Too often parents feel that they must respond immediately – with advice, a yes or no to a request, or consequences. A button has been pushed and your gut tells you act of make a decision right away. Instead, take a moment to reflect. How would it feel to say, “I’ll get back to you on that,” or “I have some strong feelings about that. I need to think about what you’ve just told me.” When you respond this way, you’re telling your child that you really listened. You’re breaking down defensive walls and opening up to meaningful communication.
Reacting and responding in a more thoughtful, less emotional way is critical to a healthy relationship between you and your teen. To improve these skills, consider “How to Talk So Teens Will Listen” by Faber & Mazlish. It’s an older book, but the content is just as relevant today as it was 20 years ago.
There is no EASY button in parenting; however, you can cool down your hot buttons and draw your child closer to you. And it is never too late to start.
~Fern Weis, Certified Coach and Middle School Teacher, helps parents break down the walls their teens put up, so they can have a great relationship and better prepare their kids for success in college and beyond. Learn how Fern can help you with your parenting concerns through coaching, classes and workshops at Your Family Matters.