Tell Me About It: Twin boy, 10, is pushing mother's buttons

Posted: June 09, 2011

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Question: I have 10-year-old twin sons. They are both really nice boys, do well in school, have a good group of friends, help around the house, etc. However, I am starting to struggle with one who is turning into a button-pusher, specifically my button- pusher. He seems to go out of his way to provoke me, and while I generally can ignore, calmly dole out a consequence, or turn it into a joke, if he hits me at just the right time (lack of sleep, stressed, attention turned elsewhere), he can rile me up, and it seems to be happening more.

Where's the fine line between ignoring and getting angry, lecturing and stronger consequences? If this is 10, what's it going to be like in five years?

Answer: Possibly much better. There are times as all kids grow up when they need to separate themselves from their parents, be it physically, emotionally, politically, whatever. It's part of their essential process of building their own identity. They do this hard work internally at every point in their childhood, but at times it's low-key and other times the internal struggle is so great it sucks the whole family in.

It's quite possible you're in one of those phases now, and it's exacerbated by his being a twin. He might not be willing to rattle his connection to his twin, so he rattles yours all the harder.

You might consider talking to the counselor at your kids' school, just to ask about 10-year-old-appropriate strategies and also about good books on the subject.

If you find yourself losing your stay-calm resolve more or if the situation escalates, ask for referrals to a family therapist whom you can call upon more regularly. It doesn't need to be a long commitment; after getting to know you both, a good problem-solving pro can bring light and ideas in a session or two.


Email Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com, or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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