428. Buttons Children Push

There are things we adults know we shouldn’t say or do, because saying or doing them won’t do any good, and will probably do some harm. If we were saints, or even consistently reasonable but unsaintly people, we wouldn’t ever do those things. But every adult I know well sometimes does some of them, and I strongly suspect that the rest of the adults – the ones I don’t know so well – do, too. Of course, some do so more than others, but we all do it. We try not to, but we can’t help it.
Same with children. Even usually well-intentioned children occasionally forget their good intentions and say or do things that they know are bound to make things worse. And some children make a habit of it. If something can be said to spoil a good time or aggravate a bad one, you can rely on some children to do so.
We often don’t know why this happens – what forces come together to make some children and adults say or do just the wrong things at just the wrong times. There’s a strong tendency to think they do so because they’re evil, or because they’re at least temporarily possessed by the forces of evil. I strongly believe that all people are basically well-intentioned, but I’ve often seen children and adults say things I’m sure they know will only hurt. I’ve done so myself, too. And I’m a nice guy. Really, I am. Ask any of my friends.
Sometimes, we can remove ourselves a little and clearly see what’s going on. Some children need to know that their words and actions can affect people, and they haven’t figured out how to have good effects. They find it easier to upset people. As adults, sometimes we can see what’s going on, and skillfully redirect a child’s shenanigans. We can teach some children to be more aware of how they affect other people, and how they consequently end up affecting the way they’re seen by other people. And some children are open to thinking about their behavior, and changing it.
But not all the time. If we’ve seen the needs of the children being tormented more clearly than we’ve seen the needs of the tormentors, we react instead of responding. If the tormentors remind us too strongly of other tormentors we’ve known, we can quickly make connections in our minds, and react inappropriately. Sometimes children can push our buttons; we may be adults who should know better, but we’ve been known to occasionally fall prey to children’s words and deeds.
The most common reaction we adults give is to rely on our superior power. We sometimes tend to make children stay in from recess or something for reminding us too strongly of nemeses we’ve known. But if we can rise above that tendency, we can see that children who push people’s buttons have needs, too. And we can work on helping to meet those needs.

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