How to Stay Calm When Your Child is out of Control
Before We Begin
Caregiver Support Guides are designed to support parents and caregivers as we learn new parenting skills. This information is not meant to take the place of a licensed mental health professional.
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Prefer Short & Sweet?
Sometimes you just need some quick tips and resources. If you don't have time for the whole guide, skip down to the tl;dr (too long; didn't read) for an overview.
It was Thursday afternoon and Sonia’s twin boys leapt out of the school bus onto the pavement. Justin punched Matthew in the shoulder and took off running. In response, Mathew let out an ear-splitting howl. Meanwhile, the bus driver shot Sonia a look that didn’t need translation.
Sonia could feel heat rising on the back of her neck. She grabbed Matthew’s hand and scanned ahead for Justin. Why was it always her boys making trouble at the bus stop? Justin would be getting a talking to when Sonia caught up to him – that’s for sure!
As she towed Matthew toward home, Sonia remembered that this wasn’t the first time she’d gotten a warning look from the bus driver. She began to worry what would happen if the boys got kicked off the bus. She was already leaving work early – driving across town to their school would put her boss over the edge. What was she going to do?
The Emotional Toll: Understanding Your Emotions
Before you can deal with the emotions you feel when your child is out of control, you need to understand what you're feeling and why. Learn more about your emotions in this first step.
The Answer (part 1): Dealing With Emotions Right Away
Kids do unexpected things and sometimes you need "emergency skills" to deal with your emotions right away. Learn some ways to do that in this step.
Need the answers without the whole guide? We get it. That’s why we’re here with tl;dr (too long; didn’t read). There are four things you can do right away if your kids are pushing you to lose control:
- Stop: Take a moment and breathe or walk away (if you can). This can help to deescalate the situation
- Refocus: Check in with yourself - are there things going on that might make your fuse a little shorter than normal? Are you hungry? Stressed from work? Dealing with a sibling’s behavior at the same time? Understanding triggers (and meeting your unmet needs) can help you to focus on resolving the conflict at hand.
- Recognize: Behavior is communication. Your child is trying to tell you something with the way they’re acting – they probably just don’t have the skills to do it another way. This knowledge helps many parents and caregivers respond with more empathy.
- Reframe: Try to look at what’s going right in the situation. Focusing on strengths makes it easier to collaborate and solve problems together.
In addition to these four tips that families can use “in the moment,” it’s a good idea to be proactive about family conflict. You can learn more in Dealing with Emotions in The Long Term.