A parent asked me the other day, “how can I stop my child from pushing my buttons?” I asked what she meant and she said, “he never listens to me – he’s always testing to see what I will do.
Well, this mom probably figured out the answer to her own question – “testing to see what I will do.
Janet Lansbury, Child Development author and Specialist, says children can get stuck in “testing limbo”. When they are stuck, “they are aware that their behavior annoys, and maybe even infuriates the adult caring for them. Testing is a child’s way of signaling for our help – and requires a clear and immediate response.”
Lansbury encourages parents to give their child what he/she is looking for – a simple, direct, calm limit/direction. Will the child still have a strong emotional reaction when we do this? More than likely – so we acknowledge with empathy that we understand how our child is feeling, even as we help our child follow through with the request.
This parent did think she asked her child to do things but on second thought, realized she asked and didn’t direct and often gave up before following through. And so the testing limbo continued.
It’s food for thought, isn’t it?
The beauty of it is we can be both direct and calm in our request and kind and empathic to our child – meeting our needs and answering our child’s besides.