Are You a Button Pusher?

Understanding the power you have in relationships

There are a lot of things I love about being a mom, but other things I could definitely do without. At the top of my list is the bickering. As the saying goes, “They fight like brothers.” Oh, how I dread the days and seasons in which my three boys are at each other constantly. They are set off by the slightest statement or incident, making it impossible to peacefully finish a meal.

“Don’t you see, Mom! He’s laughing at me,” one of them complains. “Well, he’s breathing on me! He’s doing it on purpose because he knows it makes me mad!”

During these times of discord, I notice that my kids become particularly adept at pushing each other’s “buttons.” This is a skill that all siblings seem to master. Do you remember your brothers and sisters pushing your buttons? They knew exactly what to say or do to set you off. It’s as if they had some secret knowledge to bypass normal reasoning and key into your greatest insecurities and irritations.

A casual onlooker doesn’t even know the “button” has been pushed. They don’t pick up on the fact that a seemingly innocent look or word or overly polite way of responding is actually an act of war, which is why the “button pusher” smiles triumphantly as his brother gets punished for striking back.

One thing I’ve realized through parental eyes, is that we “mature” grownups are prone to falling into the same dysfunctional habits we learned as children. Although we are better at disguising our motives, we are still prone to push each other’s buttons.

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Juli Slattery

Juli Slattery is a TCW regular contributor and blogger. A widely known clinical psychologist, author, speaker, and broadcast media professional, she co-founded Authentic Intimacy and is the co-author of Passion Pursuit: What Kind of Love Are You Making?

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May 25

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