When Kids Push Your Buttons, How to Keep Your Cool

If you’re a parent, you’ve probably experienced a time or two (or more) when your kids have pushed your buttons. You’re probably no stranger to how hard it can be to keep your cool in such times, either.

While you may have had some moments of losing your cool…and don’t consider yourself one of the most patient people, you can easily enhance your sense of calm if you have a plan of action.

Follow these tips and watch how your ability to stay calm with your children is enhanced:

1.     Take a break. If you’re home with your child 24/7, give yourself a break to refuel and recharge. When we are less than patient, we tend to become angry and our emotions block rational thinking.

·       After experiencing a strong emotion like anger, it takes most of us around 30 minutes to return to a “normal” emotional state, even though you might feel calm after 10 minutes.

·       Research has shown that after this happens, you’re still physiologically “agitated” and more susceptible to becoming angry again. Think of this as a “kindling” effect of sorts. Try to take a break and get away from the kids, provided they are safe while you take a break.

2.     Count to 10. If you’re unable to get away for a bit, the next best option is to switch your focus. Try counting to ten or concentrate on your breathing.

·       It’s tough to control your body temperature, pulse, or blood pressure. However, your breathing is one of the few bodily functions you can control. And when we control our breathing, we can directly impact our blood pressure (Anderson, McNeely, & Windham, 2010) and our pulse (Publications, 2016). Truth be told, research has also shown that we can even control our body temperature via certain meditative practices (President & Harvard, 2002). Our minds are pretty powerful things!

·       Breathe deeply and slowly. Count your breaths and keep your mind occupied. Breathe in to the count of five seconds, hold that breath for five seconds and exhale for five seconds. Pay attention to the motion of your chest and feel the air moving in and out of your lungs.

3.     Change your perspective. Although it’s hard to believe, your child probably isn’t being problematic on purpose. Your kids just have a different perspective of the world. If they’re too young to speak, all they can do to communicate displeasure is to cry and scream. Most times, behavioral issues are simply developmental in nature.

·       What some consider “unreasonable misbehavior” is simply a part of being a child. A child’s brain isn’t fully developed until they are in their 20’s. Try hard not to accuse a child of willful disobedience when perhaps a skill deficit is to blame.

4.     Practice patience. There are two ways to practice patience. You can mentally rehearse being more patient or you can actually practice your patience in low-stress situations.

·       Think back to a time where you were less patient than you would have liked. Imagine yourself behaving in the way you’d prefer. Picture a different outcome. Practice this exercise several times a day.

·       Try being more patient when you’re only slightly stressed. If you practice in lower-stress situations, you’ll be more successful during those times when you’re about to lose your cool. A little self-talk can be helpful here. Try saying to yourself:

·       “I’ve got this!”
·       “I’m calm and relaxed.”
·       “I know just how to handle this.”
·       “This moment won’t last forever.”

You get the idea. What’s important is that you come up with something that is meaningful to you, something that will help you “talk yourself through” a rough time. In BLOOM, we call these “mantras”. Mantras can help you cope with a variety of different situations.

5.     Extend patience to yourself, as well. It’s unreasonable to expect that you can completely avoid getting upset. Even though you’re a parent, you’re also human. Give yourself a break and remember that it isn’t realistic to be patient at all times. As I always like to say, “You don’t have to be really perfect, you just have to be perfectly real!” Who better than a fellow, imperfect human being to teach a child what

Finding balance, staying calm and keeping your cool are worth the effort they take. It will improve the climate of your home and you’ll be an excellent role model for your children. 


Anderson, D. E., McNeely, J. D., & Windham, B. G. (2010). Regular slow-breathing exercise effects on blood pressure and breathing patterns at rest. Journal of Human Hypertension24(12), 807–813. doi:10.1038/jhh.2010.18

President, T., & Harvard, F. of. (2002, April 19). Meditation dramatically changes body temperatures. Retrieved December 30, 2016, from http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2002/04/meditation-dramatically-changes-body-temperatures/

Publications, H. H. (2016, September 12). Relaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell errant stress response - Harvard health. Retrieved December 30, 2016, from http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/relaxation-techniques-breath-control-helps-quell-errant-stress-response

Until next time,


Wendy Young, LMSW, BCD, is  the founder of Kidlutions and co-author of BLOOM: 50 Things to Say, Think and Do with Anxious, Angry and Over-the-Top Kids. She is the creator of numerous workbooks and resources to help from the preschool through the teen years. Follow her on PinterestInstagramTwitter and Facebook! She'd love to see your smiling face there!


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