Pushing My Buttons

By Abby Bordner

Have you ever said, “My kids are pushing my buttons!”? Kids are pre-programed to find the exact things that make us go batty. Why is that? I used to cruise around in my life pre-kids and go months, maybe years, without having to deal with my own rage, irritation, lost patience and general melt downs. But since I’ve had kids, I can be pushed into one or more of these emotions on a regular basis.

Have your kids made you so angry you were shaking? Has the sound of your child’s whining voice ever driven you to see red? Have you ever responded to your child’s tantrum by having a tantrum of your own?

You are not alone. Kids do this to us. They are the most intimate extension of ourselves, walking, breathing, whining right there in front of us. This is the opportunity we get as parents; the real life situations to deal with our stuff. And, our kids are watching. So, now we get to teach our children how to manage these emotions. Not by talking calmly about them, not by imagining what you may do in a heated situation. Our biggest teaching moments come when we are at our most emotionally stressed and stripped.

The best lessons we can teach our children about emotional health is by showing them how we manage our own emotions in a healthy way.  It is very important to learn ways to calm yourself down. Quickly. There is a process called emotional regulation that is one of the keys to emotional health. It is bringing ourselves into a manageable state before we take any action on our emotions.

Think of it this way. I like to imagine a visual of a gauge of emotional responses to our children going from green to yellow to red.



  • Feelings of irritation and annoyance.
  • We may choose to react or not.
  • We can usually get away with ignoring these feelings.


  • Feeling frustrated and angry.
  • We need to make decisions, set a limit.
  • We have motivation to act AND the self-control to act responsibly.
  • The problem is, sometimes we don’t set limits or make decisions here.


  • Feeling irate and furious.
  • We are “seeing red” and “ready to blow”!
  • This is not the best time to make decisions or set limits for our children. We may regret our choices. We may yell, grab, say things that insult them and generally behave badly.
  • Our job when we’re in red is to regulate our emotions back to the yellow range. Just to the place where you can make good decisions.


  • We can do it with a deep breath, a walk to the end of the hallway and back, a trip to the bathroom or step outside for a moment. Most likely, we can’t be gone long. Our kids are waiting.
  • Then when you return, you can tell your children how you feel. Be honest! “I feel frustrated that you’re taking so long!” “I feel angry that you keep whining for cookies!” “I don’t like that you’re speaking to me disrespectfully!”

Do you see the difference? These are lessons our kids need to learn about emotions. And, once you’ve taken a moment, you can be a better teacher. Try it! Setting a good example for emotional regulation and self-control are the best lessons our kids can learn about managing difficult emotions.

How do you regulate yourself?

Leave A Reply (2 comments so far)

  1. Leah Davies
    3 years ago

    Your ideas are similar to mine! This is a great article and visual reminder.