Post written by Vicki Parnell, originally shared on

Do you tend to “lose it” more often than you’d like? Are you trying to stop getting swept up in the heat of the moment when your child’s behaviour is frustrating you? Here are some ideas to try next time this happens.

Have a mantra

Choose a phrase you can repeat to yourself; something to help you push the mental pause button. Some of my favourites:

“Kids do well if they can.”

“My kid is not giving me a hard time; my kid is having a hard time.”

“Act your age when they’re acting their age.”


Controlled breathing has been shown to calm the nervous system. This article from the New York Times outlines two approaches that could work for you; the key is to breathe in and out, slowly and deeply, expanding your belly.

Look for the vulnerability in your child

Even at times when it’s hardest to feel warm and fuzzy toward your child, take a look at their face and search for signs of the little girl or boy you love. Underneath the behaviour that’s pushing your buttons is a young person who is totally overwhelmed. A trembling lower lip, tears running down their cheeks, the look in their eyes; when you can see these things in front of you, it can shift the way you see the child very quickly.

It might help to put cute photos of your child as a baby or toddler in every room of the house, and remind yourself to look at them during hard moments to help you remember the love you feel for them.

Give yourself permission to take a time out

Losing your cool is a sure sign that you need to regroup. Go ahead and step out of the room. Set a timer for five or ten minutes. Splash cold water on your face. There is no weakness in stepping away for a moment – in fact, you’re modelling a critical life skill for your child.

Plan for the hard moments

We can get trapped into a negative cycle of negative, knee-jerk reactions that escalate the situation when our children do things we don’t like. Changing this pattern will take time – just wanting to be different is not enough to make that change magically happen!

The most important thing you can do to change this dynamic is be proactive. Choose a calming strategy that you think would work, and figure out how you can remind yourself to try it during those hard moments. Put a sticky note in a strategic location in the house, tie a string around your finger… whatever would work best for you. Then next time you feel the temperature rising, as soon as you can, try your new approach.

Image by Brittney Bush Bollay – Creative Commons License