Buttons You Never Knew You Had

Raising children can be one the most rewarding jobs in life. It can also be one of the hardest. You start out sleep-deprived and feeling completely incompetent. There are moments you enjoy, and moments that bore you to tears. The days are long, but the years go by so quickly.

As your children get older, everyone gets more freedom. Then you find yourself with a teenager and you ask yourself, “what happened to my baby girl, to my sweet angel who is suddenly a ball of hormones with ups-and-downs and all-arounds?” The teen years are difficult for everyone. Some parents find themselves acting in ways they never thought they would, sometimes saying exactly what they swore they would never say to their children. The moments of awesome wisdom and grace get drowned out by the mistakes, the drama, and the angst of raising a teen.

In my job as a therapist for teens, parents often come to me and say they don’t know why they act the way they do. I tell them that teens know instinctively how push the buttons you didn’t even know you had. One father found himself completely unable to set limits for his out-of-control teen. As we explored the reasons for this, we discovered that the button being pushed in him had nothing to do with his son. It was from a past trauma in his own life. Once we worked through it, he found he had regained his confidence and was able to be firm and fair. His son’s behavior changed dramatically once pushing the button got him nowhere.

A mom came to me and said she felt she was incapable of being a good mother and bound to mess up her kids’ lives. She spent her days worrying about how she would raise the best kids and not make the same mistakes her parents made. She became anxious and paralyzed, unable to make the simplest of decisions regarding her children. Working through this, we discovered that her fears stemmed from some pretty terrible things that happened in her childhood. As we untangled that thread, she was able to allow herself to be an imperfect but kind mom for imperfect but talented children, and the whole family relaxed.

Very few of us had idyllic childhoods. Being a parent of an adolescent often brings up painful issues, many of which have been so long buried we thought they weren’t relevant anymore. This is one of the mixed blessings of being a parent: our children push our buttons, making it important and urgent to finally heal from the mistakes our own parents made and the rough roads we had to travel in our own youths.

Of course, I’m very clear that many teens’ issues are theirs alone! In either case, I enjoy being able to help parents put their childhood issues to rest so they can be the parents they always wanted to be.