We All Have Buttons

“Oh good gracious, if this child does that one more time I may lose it and have a meltdown myself.” 

For those of you who have a child in your home you may have thought this once or twice… or thought this daily if we are being honest. For those of you with multiple children or have had particularly difficult placements you may have thought this almost hourly (there are days I certainly have). We warn you in MAPPS that this will happen and we plead with desperation in our voice, “Our children will find your buttons and press it over and over again” Sometimes I feel like they enjoy pushing it as much as elevator buttons that light up. Our children find something that stirs emotions in you and they find control and power in those moments. We explain why they do this, but I want to take a moment to not make it about them, but about YOU!

You may need to brace yourself for this next paragraph. As foster parents it is easier to point the finger at the child then to look inward at what we bring to the interaction in the moment. Amanda Purvis puts it beautifully, “A button is your history. It has little or nothing to do with the child’s behavior. It is a light in a dark place known as your own insecurity.” Sit in that for a minute, even say it out loud and let that resonate with you right now as you read this with a calm heart. Here is a personal example, one of my buttons is when my child asks the same question repetitively. I always thought it was a struggle for me because I grew up in a strict home where as a child and teenager felt as though I was sitting on a stand with a high paid attorney in front of me. Questions to me equate to someone saying, “I don’t believe you, I don’t trust you.” How does this translate now as a parent? All of my children ask questions, yes, that is a NORMAL thing that children do! For my daughter who struggles with anxiety and attachment this is her primary means of building a relationship with me. She comes from a background with neglect. She asks if I am going to meet her needs, because in the past unfortunately that was not always something that adults did.

Logically, is anger to her questions a logical reaction? NOT AT ALL! When she asks me a question, I revert back to my own insecurity and I hear her saying “I don’t believe you, I don’t trust you.” Which stirs up all kind of feelings of struggling with my own self-worth and my own insecurity. My button, is not about her behavior, it is about my own insecurity. Did I come to this conclusion easily? No, it has taken almost 9 years of fostering, training, teaching and lots of times searching, not for her “why” but for my own. I challenge you this week to REFLECT. Take one button of yours that your children push and try and trace it back. You may be surprised how much of parenting children from hard places is more about our own insecurity as we parent them then it ever was about their behavior.

It’s a humbling and exhausting process. The beauty in it is that reflection helps refines us to move into pockets of grace not just for the child, but for us as their parent!