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Home » Talking About Meltdowns »

When Feelings Get Hot!

Mom: Don't you want a ponytail instead? Girl: No. They're stupid. I'd look like a geek!

Ask Yourself, "Do You Really Need to Fight About This?"

"All parents fight with their kids over stupid things. If you can cut down unnecessary fights by 20% and say this isn't worth a battle, life will be better. However, if you are avoiding 80% of battles, then you are avoiding being an authority."

Michael Thompson, Ph.D.

Co-author, Raising Cain

If you're overwhelmed, give yourself a time out. You might simply say, "I need a moment to calm down." When your child sees you calm down, she may calm down too. "Nothing is quite as powerful for a child as a parent who just stops to think about his own feelings," advises Michael Thompson.

Try not to criticize your child for "pouting." It's normal to feel discouraged at times. Consider how you feel when you get criticized or don't get your way about something important.

Explain a time out or disciplinary action without attacking your child. If you give a time out, explain why. You might say, "You need a time out to cool down." Use a rational tone, otherwise your child might hear only your anger and not think about the consequences of her action.

Don't drag out a fight with too much discussion. If your child (or you) is feeling out of control or in a rage, a lot of talking may not help. In fact, it could prolong the conflict. If you're not sure what to do or how to discipline your child, take a break. You can always tell your child, "I will be back in a minute with my decision."

Avoid physical power struggles. Using your size and strength only heightens the conflict. Imagine a child is feeling furious and picks up a stick. If you grab it before she has time to give it up voluntarily, she might try to hit you with it. Instead, you can avert danger and acknowledge your child's power by saying, "Please put that down. You could hurt someone you love." (Obviously you would never allow someone to hurt or be hurt.)

Try not to take your child's strong feelings personally. Many parents feel frustrated or personally attacked if their child criticizes or explodes at them. "Don't take your child's strong feelings personally all the time," adds Michael Thompson. "'I hate you' is not actually a personal statement. What your child really may be saying is 'I hate your power.'"

Keep breathing and stay relaxed. "It's hard not to tense up when your child is getting out of control, but if you stay relaxed, she's more likely to follow," recommends Thompson. Sometimes we start holding our breath when things get tense. Instead, inhale, exhale and then talk through your own feelings in a clear and (if necessary) firm way.

NEXT: Handling a Full-Blown Explosion

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