Your Kid’s Personality And Why It Triggers You

Photo: Karolina Grabowska | Canva 
Triggered Mother, daughter texting

In a previous post, I discussed why it’s normal to have a favorite child and as long as you don’t silk screen your preference onto a T-shirt or otherwise make it known, you’re still a good parent. But why does your child, or children, trigger you so much?

Your Kid’s Personality And Why It Triggers YouPhoto: Antonio Guillem / Shutterstock

Look at this delightful girl pictured above whose photo I obtained from a free image site. Let’s imagine she is your daughter. The same girl could be thought of in an infinite amount of ways by different parents. Here’s a range of interpretations of her behavior that I could hear clients tell me in a session:

  • “Lazy like my sister. Always reading, reading, reading. Her siblings help with cleaning up and then look at this one sitting on the couch as usual.”
  • “She is smart like her dad. Thank God she didn’t inherit dyslexia from me. She is truly the light of my life.”
  • “Here’s my daughter the romantic getting into another novel. With her head in the sky, she is probably going to make the same mistakes I did. Marrying for what I thought was love and here I am with my idiot unemployed ex who of course she puts on a pedestal.”
  • “What a verbal kid, just like how I was. Always with my head in a book, my mother always laughs about how she knew I would be a writer since I was 3. Maybe my daughter will be a writer like me.”
  • An anxious introvert like her mother. I wonder if she’s also going to be too overwhelmed to have a full-time job.”

RELATED: 7 Ways To Stop Being Defensive When Someone Triggers You

These may sound extreme, but they are all fairly representative of the ways that people project their issues on their kids. Projections are based on your feelings about yourself, your partner/co-parent, your siblings, your parents, your inlaws, and whoever else your child subconsciously reminds you of. If you are honest with yourself, you likely make similar judgments about your child on a near-constant basis, and there is nothing wholly “objective” about any parent’s judgment of their kid.



It can be extremely useful to figure out why you are triggered by certain of your kids or certain behaviors in your kids. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Who in my life does my child remind me of?
  2. How do I feel about this person (including, of course, how you feel about yourself if you’re triggered by a child whom you feel inherited your worst traits)?
  3. How can I see this child more objectively?

RELATED: 10 Parenting Mistakes You're Probably Making (And How To Fix Them)

For number three, you can introspect, and write out if it’s helpful, the actual objective feedback you’ve received from others about your kid. Include what teachers say, friends, the child’s peers, your spouse or ex, your family, doctors, coaches, and anyone else. Think about more positive traits and more negative ones. This can help you see your child as a full and nuanced human being, and allow you to be the best possible parent you can be.

Note that focusing solely on the positive feedback your child has received and ignoring/denying the negative does your child a tremendous disservice. Many parents, without realizing how they sound to others, say things like:

“Did I mention that Colton’s substitute soccer coach said he is super skilled at soccer? Thank God his regular coach was absent because that guy only focuses on his ‘behavior’ because I guess he forgot what a normal rambunctious kid is like!”

“So Colton’s kindergarten teacher who said he has ADHD is now working at another school. I’d bet anything that she got transferred for being such a negative person and honestly pretty bad at teaching. ‘Acting out’ just means normal boy and I guess she missed that part of her training.”

“I stopped speaking to my sister because she said Colton shouldn’t have pushed her kid’s head into the dirt and she didn’t understand anything about how normative it is for boys to be physical. C’est la vie, I never thought she was a supportive aunt.”

The moral of the story is don’t stick your head in the sand like Colton’s mom, but also don’t call your bookworm kid annoying because she reminds you of your pretentious sister. Examine your own biases and upbringing, and your conception of your child will grow more evenhanded, and you will truly be able to see and love your child for the person they are.

RELATED: 5 Things The Behavior That Triggers Your 'Mom Rage' Reveals About Your Childhood

Dr. Samantha Rodman Whiten, aka Dr. Psych Mom, is a clinical psychologist in private practice and the founder of DrPsychMom. She works with adults and couples in her group practice Best Life Behavioral Health.

This article was originally published at Dr. Psych Mom. Reprinted with permission from the author.