Teen on couch looking at phone with mom behind her looking frustrated and annoyed.

My Kid Gets on My Nerves!! How to Stop Taking Your Child’s Behavior Personally

Maybe it's an innocent comment like, “Ewww, Mama,your breath stinks, don't kiss me!” or maybe it's an angry outburst – name calling and slammed doors. Some things are hard not to take personally.

Do you ever find yourself thinking or saying any of the following?

  • You are making me so angry right now!
  • Why are you doing this to me?
  • Can't he see he's hurting me?
  • I can't believe he's treating me this way! He's so ungrateful!

If those thoughts are coming up, you've got a pretty good indication you're taking your child's behavior personally. This means you wind up feeling hurt and angry. The next thing you know, you're in a power struggle with your child, or you're saying things you swore you'd never say to them – trying to use guilt or shame to get them to behave the way you want them to.

Taking behavior personally makes it much harder to stay calm, much less think of solutions and be a leader. The good news is there are effective ways to detach from your child's behavior so you can be the parent you want to be.

How Can I Stay Calm When They're Driving Me Nuts?

First off, give yourself a bit of a break. You are certainly not the first person whose child has gotten on their nerves.

Getting on their parents' nerves shows kids they have the power to make their parents react. Even if the reaction is negative, that power is a huge motivator. This means kids have a knack for finding exactly what buttons to push to get the strongest reactions from their parents. So – what can you do about it?

5 Strategies for Not Taking Your Child's Behavior Personally:

1. It helps to remember that behavior is communication.

Kids are young. They don't have your years of experience dealing with frustration, fear, or anger; and they generally have far fewer resources for handling these big emotions. This means sometimes they express their emotions inappropriately through their behavior. If you look at the behavior as a type of communication you can get curious and start to figure out what's causing it.

2. Become familiar with your anger triggers.

What actions, words, or external circumstances are likely to get under your skin fast? These are your main anger triggers. As you notice these triggers, you may be able to take steps to prevent them, or make plans for how to deal with them in the future.

3. Pause.

There are VERY FEW behaviors that require immediate action. Sometimes you can't leave the room for your own personal time out, but you can probably turn away, or at least close your eyes as you take a deep breath. If you're very angry, it's helpful to pause, catch yourself before exploding, and then simply state: “I'm too angry to talk about this right now.”

You can wait out the immediate storm and work on problem solving and teaching once you're more calm. Kids will remember your example of handling anger, and they'll be much more receptive to learning from you when they're not afraid of your rage.

4. Ask yourself, ‘Where is this coming from for me?'

When you notice you're taking your child's behavior personally, it's a great time to do some detective work. What are you feeling? When have you felt like this before? What story are you hearing in your head about this behavior or these words? You might not know the answers right away, but investigating can help you understand why you feel so deeply in these moments. You can gain some distance and perhaps find a new way of seeing things. 

5. Change your inner script.

When you notice a thought like, “Why is he doing this to me!?” try changing it to: “I wonder what he needs from me right now?” In her book Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids, Bonnie Harris explains, “To affect our child's behavior, his internal state must first be understood, then accepted, then addressed.” Kids who are ‘misbehaving' are stressed because of an unmet need. By thinking about what they might need, we move away from taking their behavior personally and move back into being their loving parent and guide.

All of these strategies take practice and inner work. Try to be patient with yourself and, if possible, find the support of other nonjudgmental parents who've been there. Sometimes, even if you can't solve or change what's happening, at least you can see that you're not alone and hopefully find a little humor and perspective.

Author: Alissa Zorn

Title: Trauma-Informed Coach

Expertise: childhood emotional neglect, perfectionism, parenting, journaling, comics, doodling, coaching

Alissa Zorn is the founder of OverthoughtThis.com. She's a trauma-informed coach and cartoonist passionate about helping people overcome perfectionism and shame to build authentic, joyful lives. Alissa has been featured on the Good Men Project, Wealth of Geeks, Motherly, MSN.com and more.