Powerful Tips to Be a Calmer Parent When Your Teen Pushes Your Buttons

We're not doing our relationship with our teens any good when we lose our cool

by Nancy Reynolds

This Post: Tips to Be a Calmer Parent When Your Teen Pushes Your Buttons

I think we can all agree, we’ve all done it at one point or another – we lost our cool, blew a gasket, overreacted, freaked out, unleashed on our kids, snapped, flipped our lid, hit the roof, or went bananas…

Call it what you like. It might not be something we’re overly proud of when we let our emotions get the best of us, but we are human and we’re certainly not perfect.

Still, as a mom of three teenagers, I’m always disappointed in myself when I totally wig out or overreact. After all, how can I teach my kids to manage their emotions if I can’t control mine?

That’s why I set out on a mission to do a better job of staying calm when my kids push my buttons – and, let’s face it, teenagers always seem to know exactly which buttons to push to send their parents sailing into emotional oblivion.

I started asking myself:

“Did my shouting or the loss of my temper help the situation in any way?”

“Did I alleviate any of the stress of the situation?”

“Did I teach my teen anything in the process?”

“Did either one of us walk away feeling better or that we resolved anything in a positive way?”

The answer was always, “No.”

If you’re ready to become a much calmer parent, far more emotionally balanced and create a more positive, “let’s work together,” relationship with your teen, here are a few things I’ve learned as a parent. Here are a few tips to be a calmer parent when your teen pushes your buttons.

Powerful Tips to Be a Calmer Parent When Your Teen Pushes Your Buttons


What Happens When You Lose Your Cool?

Nothing positive ever comes from losing your temper or freaking out with your kids. Of course, every parent loses it occasionally, (we can’t be too hard on ourselves) but when it becomes a habit, here are a few of the unhealthy downsides.

  • You set a powerful (negative) example to your child that you’re incapable of managing your emotions. “How can I respect and trust you when you’re constantly yelling at me?”
  • You hand over the power to your child. “I know exactly how to rile up my mom/dad and wear them down.”
  • You teach your child to sneak behind your back. “The last time my mom found out there was alcohol at a party, she freaked out. I’ll never tell her anything like that again.”
  • You instill the belief in your child that you disapprove of them, that they’re undeserving or unlovable. “My dad is always coming down on me about everything. I can never do anything right in his eyes. I don’t care anymore… I’m just going to stop trying.”
  • You chip away at your relationship with your child. “My mom and I aren’t close at all. She’s always yelling at me. I wish she could see how hard I’m trying.”
  • Their brain might literally shut down when you yell or nag. Studies have proven that when we nag, parts of our kids’ brains literally shut down, which means when our kids act like they aren’t listening, there’s a good chance they actually aren’t.
  • You wear yourself out. The more worn out you are, the less equipped you’ll be to parent from a place of calm and composure, which can impact your parenting decisions.

10 Tips to Be a Calmer Parent When Your Teen Pushes Your Buttons

Pay Attention to Your Triggers

If you gave it some serious thought, you’d likely be able to nail down most of the things your teen does that set you off. Maybe it’s when they roll their eyes. Maybe it’s when they shoot back at you with an “Okaaaaayyyy… geez, mom, I heard you!” Or maybe it’s when you’ve asked your teen eight times to clean their bedroom and it always seems to fall on deaf ears.

Every parent has triggers. The trick is to bring those triggers to a conscious level and “talk yourself down from the mountain” when your teen does those things that set you off. Rather than reacting, yelling or nagging, focus on staying calm and saying what needs to be said. If consequences need to be put in place, put them in place. But keep your emotions in check. You’re not doing yourself, your teen or your relationship any good by flying off the handle.

Pause Before You Respond

It sounds too simple to work, but it does. Take a deep breath, count to ten, leave the room for a few minutes – do what you have to, but give yourself time to calm down, regroup, and allow a sense of reason to return to your mind before you respond so you’ll be in a better place to react calmly and be the parent your teen needs.

Consider the Circumstances

The next time you’re about to unleash on your teen, ask yourself, “Am I tired?” “Am I hungry?” “Am I feeling overwhelmed?” And then, ask yourself the same questions about your teen. So many arguments and overreactive responses can be tempered simply by paying attention to the circumstances.

If your teen is overwhelmed because they’re dealing with final exams or three major tests back-to-back, take that into account before you respond to their sassy comment. If on the other hand, you’re stressed out about work and overwhelmed because the house is a disaster, take your own emotions into account before you transfer those frustrations onto your teen. Sometimes, it’s best to walk away and table any discussions until you’re both in a better frame of mind.

Think About the Consequences

Looking back, every time I lost my cool with my kids or overreacted, not only did I later regret it, I realized that my unnecessary behavior was chipping away at my relationship with them.

Before lashing out at your kids, consider the consequences – both short-term and long-term. Your teen is watching everything you do. If you want to teach them to manage their emotions and respond calmly and maturely, then you need to set an example for them to follow.

Ask Yourself: “Does This Really Matter?”

Before you blow a gasket because your son refuses to wear a coat to school on a cold day or your daughter invited her friends over for a sleepover without asking you for permission first, ask yourself, “How important is this?” Will this really matter a year from now?”Am I more focused on being right than I am working with my teen and giving them more autonomy?”

Bottom line, not everything matters. If you can show your teen that you’re willing to give in a little and compromise on some issues, they’ll be far more inclined to accept (and respect) your decisions when there isn’t room for compromise.

Learn to Let Some Things Go

Not every sassy remark deserves a retort. Not every heavy sigh, eye roll or slamming door needs a reaction. Not every battle needs to be fought. When you’re a parent of teenagers, sometimes the absolute best response is no response at all.

That’s not to say we should ignore or disregard continual disrespectful behavior. We shouldn’t. What it means is that we should give our teens room to have a crummy day and keep in mind that quite often our kids’ emotional reactions aren’t always easily controlled.

Take Hormones into Consideration

Teenagers are basically human beings under massive construction. They’re going through a ton of internal hormonal changes that, scientifically, have proven to heighten their emotions, which means, to them, everything feels bigger.  

That might explain why your daughter erupts like a volcano simply because you forgot to wash her favorite shirt (even though she’s perfectly capable of washing it herself) or why your son loses his cool because you didn’t make it to the grocery store and you’re out of his favorite after-school snack.

If we can remind ourselves that our kids’ over-the-top reactions to minor things aren’t necessarily because they’re entitled, nasty or determined to make our lives miserable and that it has far more to do with the fact that their emotions are on overdrive, maybe it will help us keep their outbursts in perspective, learn to take them in stride and parent with a little more grace.

Look for Solutions

For every problem, there are typically dozens of solutions – providing we take the time to find them. Maybe the issue that’s triggering you calls for a compromise. Maybe it means calling a family meeting and setting clear expectations with your family so future arguments and “triggers” can be avoided. If there is a “hot spot” in your family that always seems to elicit your high emotion, rather than allowing things to continue as is, take action and look for peaceful solutions to fix it.

Focus on the Big Picture

When it comes to tips to be a calmer parent, this one might be the most powerful. Is it really that big of a deal that your teen didn’t put their dish in the dishwasher or that they forgot to hang up their wet towels? You can’t die on every mountain. Choose your battles wisely and remind yourself of two things:

#1 Your child is still a child. They have a lot of growing up to do and we can’t expect them to view life through our adult lens.

#2 Soon enough your teen will be off starting a life of their own. You won’t have all these frustrations to deal with. Take it in stride, focus on the big picture and enjoy the time you have with them!

Apologize When Needed

Too often, parents feel they’ll somehow relinquish control or put themselves down in their child’s eyes if they fess up and apologize when they’ve lost the ability to stay calm. But experts agree, there’s nothing more powerful than a parent admitting their faults and offering a sincere apology.

Remaining calm, composed, and patient with our teens isn’t always easy. But we need to keep in mind that we’re setting a critical example and the relationship we have with our kids during their teen years paves the way for our relationship long-term. Place your connection with them as your highest priority and don’t let petty battles of the wills erode your relationship – your teen needs you on their side.

If you enjoyed reading, “Powerful Tips to Be a Calmer Parent When Your Teen Pushes Your Buttons,” you might also enjoy reading: 

Here’s Why You Should Fight to Build a Relationship With Your Teen

How to Stop Nagging Your Teen: 10 Doable Tips to Create More Peace in Your Home

8 Tips to Build a Better Relationship with Your Teen

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