Donna Weston, Founder, and Executive Director
FAQ: How do I deal with my child/student getting under my skin?
My boys always knew what button to press. As a matter of fact, they became experts in all of my buttons! Looking back, I think they knew my weak areas better than I did! Some button pushing was intentional – wanting to get out of doing what they did not want to do – and some was just being kids – thoughtless, impulsive words or behaviors. Whatever the motivation, I felt myself being pushed by negative emotions that I struggled to not take out on them! Add to the already complicated mix of parenting (and teaching), a child with various challenges – learning, medical, behavioral – and life and relationships become much more complicated.
As a parent, it was my responsibility to mold their behavior and character. As a teacher, it was my responsibility to mold their minds, grow their skills, excite their curiosity.
So, how do we get our minds back?
I vividly remember when I started to recognize that a particular button was being pushed. One of my sons was a master arguer. If he wasn’t getting his way, he would push and push to try to wear me down. This brought up memories. As a teen I constantly argued with my mother. We were well known in our family for “butting heads”. I recognized that this pattern was being repeated. This son would get me so heated that I wanted to lash out at him. We invariably ended up shouting at each other and nothing was accomplished. We also ended up resenting each other. I hated getting sucked in!
Once I recognized this pattern, I came up with a plan. I needed to stop the argument from him as soon as I saw it brewing. I would say no, or not right now, and he would start in, “But Mom…!” I would allow him to state his reasoning, if his tone of voice was appropriate, but then if I still had the same decision and he started to push, I would tell him to “Give me 10” (pushups). Now, all of my boys were athletes and 10 pushups were nothing to them. The first time I had him do this he laughed at me and gave me the 10. I explained that the purpose of the pushups was not to punish, but to remind him to be respectful in his communication. It was a way to make him stop and think. If, when he got up, he was still communicating disrespectfully, I would have him give me another 10. If we got through 30 pushups and he still was not demonstrating self-control, I told him to separate himself from me until he could speak to me politely. Honestly, this took a while to work well, mostly because I had to see the button pushing coming! Over time, I was quicker to see it and calmer in my responses. In the process, he learned what was acceptable behavior and our relationship became far less volatile – a win-win.
So, what button do you want to work on?
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