Do You Push Your Parents’ Buttons?

Do You Push Your Parents’ Buttons?

Are there things you do that drive your parents crazy?

Is it not cleaning your room? Leaving half-eaten food around the house? Spending too much time on the phone? Playing your music too loud? Mumbling your answers? Not saying thank you?

How do your parents handle these situations? Do their responses ever lead to positive changes in your behavior?

Do you ever wish they tried a different approach to these moments?

In “How to Stop Thinking Your Teen Is ‘Pushing Your Buttons’,” Cheryl Maguire writes:

My 14-year-old daughter constantly abandons her coat on the floor and leaves half-eaten food in the living room and crumpled papers in the hall. I end up cleaning up after her, which I’ve repeatedly told her makes me upset.

She’s a smart, talented kid. So why does she keep pushing my buttons?

At some point most parents feel as if their teenager is acting in ways to intentionally make them angry. But experts say that the interaction is often more about the way the parent responds than about the teenager’s behavior.

The author provides advice to parents to better handle situations when they feel their buttons are being pushed by their teenagers. Here are excerpts from three:

Change the Language

“When a parent tells me their kid is ‘pushing their buttons,’ I let them know we need to change the language,” said Dr. Alexandra Solomon, a Northwestern University professor, clinical psychologist and author of “Loving Bravely.”

She said that thinking your child is controlling you is disempowering, which can lead to a battle of wills.

Such conflicts often fall into one of three categories, Dr. Solomon said.

The first is when the parents are thinking about their own teen behavior. Parents may project their fears, memories and challenges onto the relationship and can’t see their child as separate from themselves. Dr. Solomon gave an example: “The boy I dated when I was 16 cheated on me and broke my heart. My daughter should not date because all high school boys are immature and irresponsible.”

Another involves thinking of past mistakes they made as parents. Dr. Solomon said that if a teenager has trouble making friends a parent may think, “If I had taken my child on play dates when they were younger then they would have friends now.”

The last type is when a parent “fast forwards” to possible future behaviors. This is when a parent thinks, “If my kid is doing this at age 13 then what are they going to be doing at age 16?”

All of these patterns involve being ruled by fear instead of guided by love, Dr. Solomon said. Fear-driven parents often become controlling, creating strict rules, grounding their children or infringing on their privacy. “When these rules are created from a fear-based mind-set instead of what is necessary based on your teen’s developmental needs, an unhealthy relationship will develop,” Dr. Solomon said.

Be on the Same Team

Say to your teenager: “This isn’t working for either of us. What can we do to fix it?” Maybe the coat closet is near the front door and your kids don’t use it because they come in through the back door. Could you install a coat hook near the back door?

Once you have a plan, even if there is only a small improvement, praise your child for doing a good job and acknowledge that you have a better relationship because you are working together.

“Getting mad at your child isn’t going to change the behavior,” said Dr. Carla Naumburg, a clinical social worker and author of parenting books. “When you get angry, your attention is on the conflict instead of figuring out a solution to the problem.”

Trouble Shoot

If you have setbacks, ask your child, “Where do you think we went wrong?”

“Approach situations with curiosity. If your son doesn’t get out of bed, don’t say, ‘You are tired because you stayed up too late.’” Dr. Solomon said. Instead ask, ‘Why do you think you are tired?’ Hold back the urge to be right and instead stay curious by asking questions.

If you do yell at your teen, Dr. Naumburg recommended apologizing. “Some parents worry that apologizing will undermine their authority, but that isn’t true,” she said. “It’s a respectful way to be in a relationship and it’s modeling a behavior that we want our kids to do — take responsibility for their actions.”

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

— Do you ever push your parents’ buttons? Tell us about a recent example. Why do you think your behavior got under your parents’ skin? How did they handle the moment? Did it help the situation or make it worse? How did you all feel later?

— The article provides several reasons parents feel aggravated by their teenager’s behavior. Do any of these explanations seem to fit your parents? What insights into parenting does the article provide?

— What do you wish your parents would understand about your behavior? Are there things you think you could do to make your parents’ lives a little easier and less stressful?

— What do you think about the author’s advice to parents? Which of the techniques that she recommends would you like to see your own parents try, and why? Are there any other strategies a parent has used that have worked?

— What advice would you give your parents? What advice would you give yourself if you become a parent in the future?

Students 13 and older are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.