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How to Stay Calm When Your Kids Act Out

How to Stay Calm When Your Kids Act Out

You’re a parent, so you know those moments—the ones where your kids are screaming at each other, throwing toys, or flat-out ignoring you. In those heated moments, staying calm and handling the situation constructively is hard but essential. Here are some tips to help you stay centered in the face of tantrums and defiance.

Take Deep Breaths

Taking deep, calming breaths can help lower your heart rate and blood pressure, easing feelings of stress and anger. Close your eyes and take 5–10 slow, deep breaths from your diaphragm to gain a sense of composure. Modeling emotion regulation and use of a coping tool in an escalated moment teaches your children that we can make helpful, constructive choices in the presence of emotional intensity. Furthermore, studies show deep breathing can decrease anxiety and negative emotions.

Be Calm and Focus on Listening

Once a child is fully escalated it is not helpful to engage in a verbal dialogue with them as this can unintentionally reinforce and exacerbate the situation. If you are able to catch them at the early signs of frustration and anger, focus on listening to understand their perspective instead of just waiting for them to finish so you can react. Ask open-ended questions to make sure you understand why they feel that way. Validate their emotions, rather than the unhelpful behavioral response. This can help defuse their anger and open the door to finding a mutually agreeable solution. Studies show active listening leads to better outcomes in resolving conflicts.

Get down on your child’s level. Look them in the eye and speak in a gentle tone. “I can see you’re frustrated. Talk to me.” Let them know you care about their feelings. Staying calm is one of the best ways to teach your kids emotional regulation and conflict resolution skills.

Remove Yourself from the Situation

If tensions run high, quickly walk, or step into another room. This can help you gain a more balanced perspective and avoid escalating the conflict. Let the child know that you will return when both you and the child have calmed down and are ready to problem solve together. Even taking a minute or two to yourself has been shown to help in parenting stress and anger management studies.

Be Gentle with Yourself

You’re not going to get it right 100% of the time, so avoid harsh self-judgment. Parenting is a journey, not a destination. Learn from your mistakes and do better next time. Staying calm starts with being kind to yourself.

Take good care of yourself so you have the mental and emotional resources to care for your children. Prioritize sleep, eat healthy, limit alcohol and caffeine, and exercise regularly. This will help you recharge and shift into a calmer state of mind.

Remember Your “Why”

In difficult moments, remind yourself why you’re doing this parenting thing in the first place. Your kids are the most important people in your life, and they need you. Staying calm and responding with empathy and understanding will build trust and help strengthen your connection.

Set Clear Limits

While being empathetic, you must also set clear limits to help your child learn appropriate behaviors. Say, “It makes sense that you’re feeling angry at your brother for taking your toy. Yelling and throwing things is not okay. Use your words to tell me how you’re feeling instead.” Be consistent with a loss of a privilege for inappropriate behavior so that the child knows that certain behaviors will result in a consistent and expected consequence.

Staying composed when your child acts out will become second nature with patience and practice. The rewards of a stronger, more connected relationship with your child will make the effort so worthwhile. Always remember, they’re just kids, and they’re learning. Model the behavior you want to see. If you lose it, give yourself grace. Parenting is a journey full of learning for you, too.

If you are struggling with navigating your child’s behavioral responses to emotions, know that there is support. Parent Management Training is an evidenced based therapeutic intervention that will equip you with the tools to navigate your child’s behaviors, help you set limits and boundaries in the household, and learn how to reinforce and build more positive and appropriate behaviors. The clinicians at The OCD and Anxiety Center are training in Parent Management Training and ready to create a treatment plan to help you reach your goals. Reach out to us today to learn more.

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