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Challenge: Keeping Your Cool

When Your Kids Push Your Buttons: 2 Tools To Keep Your Cool

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There is nothing more infuriating than when someone intentionally tries to infuriate you, right?

Every so often, my son just pushes my buttons ON PURPOSE.

I get it. He is “testing his limits” and is doing what he is supposed to do as a five-year-old. But those rational thoughts don’t always help me when we are in the middle of Target and he continues to nag about getting a toy when we have already addressed the issue multiple times and I would give my left arm to make him just stop.

I may not always maintain my composure, but when I do (which is most of the time), I have two people – and strategies – to thank.

  • Asked & Answered

My first parenting nugget of awesomeness comes from parenting expert Amy McCready of Positive Parenting Solutions. When my son continually asks/begs/nags/mentions something we have already discussed, I reply with “Asked and answered.”

Simple and effective. He usually drops the subject. And I avoid annoying myself by repeating my whole spiel.

  • BIFF

Another sanity-saving gem I picked up is from the book BIFF: Quick Responses For High Conflict People by social worker, attorney and author Bill Eddy. I read this book when dealing with a difficult adult, but I find it applicable to dealing with children because they too can be “high conflict” people.

The acronym BIFF stands for:





When dealing with someone irrational and emotional, especially if their attack gets personal, you can help redirect the whole exchange toward a more calm, positive direction by making your reply short, polite, definite and containing some information.

How would this play out in parenting?

Let’s say I am at Target with my son, who is begging for a toy. We have already discussed how and when toys are purchased many times, including before coming to the store today. I am at my wits end when he whines “You are so mean! You never want me to get anything!”

A BIFF response could be:

“I hear your concern. Let me help you remember how it works with toys…You can put it on your birthday list or use the money you have in your coin jar. Thanks for remembering this now. Let’s head to the paper towels.”

I kept it short, gave him relevant info, stayed polite and ended that topic of conversation.

This can be really difficult, especially when being “friendly” towards our tormentor is the last thing we feel like doing! Surprisingly, I've found that I get a kick out of shutting down the nastiness effectively, and a BIFF reply always feels better than snapping at my child.

These tools don’t always restore my utopia, but they usually help prevent an eruption that leaves both my child and myself in tears and possibly making a public spectacle.

Keep calm and parent on.

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