Most of the time, I can’t even tell you specifically what he’s doing wrong. But I’ve tried everything from reasoning to bribery to isolation to outright yelling and….yes, even corporal punishment. And he continues to push my buttons….and I have continued to lose emotional control and wonder what I’m doing wrong. What do I do to handle him? How have I failed this child? What can I do to change him? I’ve seen it as one of my greatest failings as a parent.
And it is one of my greatest failings as a parent; if not THE absolute biggest failing on my part….because the problem isn’t him at all. It’s me.
The questions I should be asking aren’t about what I can do to mold this child into what I believe he should be. He is his own person with his very own unique personality. How horribly and completely selfish of me to want to completely change someone just to make my life easier.
Perhaps instead I should be asking, “Why do I have so many buttons that are so easily pushed?” Instead of constantly searching for ways to change my child, the more appropriate course would be to seek what I can change about myself. I’m reacting too much to little insignificant things my child does. And they are little things. In the grand cosmic scheme of things this is by most standards a good child. He’s intelligent, (usually) polite, loving, and generous. He’s not out vandalizing the neighborhood or putting the smack-down on other kids.
This is really a problem with me, not with my kid, because as much as I might fume and attempt to control him, there’s only one person on the face of this planet that I have an ounce of control over. And that is one hundred percent me. I may not be able to choose my son’s behavior, but I can certainly choose my reactions to that behavior. I am the adult here, after all. If I invested as much energy into controlling my reactions to his personality quirks and my anxiety over his “button pushing” as I have spent trying to transform my child into something he is not…well then I might actually accomplish something (as opposed to continuing to bash my head against this immovable wall and producing one frustrated and stressed out kid in the process).
Then, feasibly, there might not be any more buttons to push….and then he can go pester someone else instead…