This is something I’m almost always working on, but especially right now.

Right now, when I raise my voice just a little (in my own opinion), my 6-year-old will shout back at me: “WHY ARE YOU YELLING AT ME?

Then it’s really hard to keep calm.

However, if that’s his experience – then I’m actually teaching him that it’s OK to yell.

It’s just hard to keep your cool sometimes!

Here are a few ways I try to keep calm when he’s acting out.

#1 Prepare Mentally Beforehand

I try to go over in my head how I want to react.

Sometimes, we just know we are in for a tough day of power struggles. I always find it helpful to visualize how I hope to respond in these situations.

Having some kind of game plan definitely helps me respond in a more helpful way.

#2 Count In Secret

I often tell myself:

“I can do this 5 times”.

Just in my head, so I’m prepared to repeat myself 5 more times, or let him call for me 5 more times in bed, etc.

You get the picture.

It’s kinda similar to preparing beforehand, but it’s as simple as deciding that I can cope with this 5 more times.

#3 Prepare Them

Just as I find it helpful to prepare myself, I try to offer the same to my son.

This is your way of giving your child notice of what they can expect very soon or in a little while.

It helps them mentally prepare for the “next thing.”

  • “In 3 minutes, it’s time to brush teeth”
  • “After breakfast, we are going to see Granny, then we will go to the store”
  • “When you’re done eating, we need to wipe your face”

No one likes to be caught off guard.

#4 Choices and Consequences

Very often, all our toddlers and kids want is to feel independent.

They like to decide. (Don’t we know it!)

So let’s help them out by offering choices… and natural consequences.

  • “Hey buddy, it’s time to turn off the iPad. Are you going to turn it off, or do you want me to?”
  • “Which shoes would you like to wear today – your sneakers or rain boots?”

Learning to consider pros and cons and making decisions is an important life skill.

  • A natural consequence of not choosing – mom or dad makes the decision.
  • A natural consequence of sneaking the iPad back into their room – no more iPad.
  • A natural consequence of refusing to finish dinner – a hungry tummy at bedtime.

Pro-Dad Tip: Give a limited number of choices and only choices you can agree to.

#5 Be Reasonable

Our kids are kids, after all.

Reasonable expectations will make it easier for our kids to listen and complete tasks… with less yelling from everyone.

  • We can’t expect a toddler to follow complex instructions.
  • We can’t expect a 6-year-old to respond to a consequence in silence.
  • And, we can’t expect an 8-year-old to complete their homework successfully without supervision.

Their minds and emotions are still under construction.

I wrote more about this concept in my blog post, Small Kids, Hard Topics.

#6 Get Down To Their Level

This is probably one of the most simple yet effective tools in our “Dad Toolbox”.

Simply bending your knees and looking them in the eye – at their level – can reduce a whole lot of frustration.

Eye contact is so important for communication, it helps our kids concentrate on what we are saying.

Pro-Dad Tip: If your kid is getting really distracted, gently and securely hold their shoulders as you speak to them. This helps their bodies feel grounded.

#7 Consistency is Key

Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’.

Mixed messages are really confusing for kids.

It’s a good idea if both parents/caregivers are on the same page about rules and activities.

(Though, of course, we might “break the rules” for a special treat every now and again!  😉)

#8 Redirection

I am sure you’ve heard it before – half of parenting is the art of distraction.

Sometimes we enter into a back-and-forth between Dad and kid… and then it’s a slippery slope to “BECAUSE I SAID SO!”

We can get stuck in the power struggle loop.

We need to redirect their behavior and attention.

  • Your kid is jumping on the sofa – they clearly need an energy release, so send them outside to run around
  • Your kid is throwing toys – offer a ball instead
  • Give a choice (see number 4)

Pro-Dad Tip: I heard of a parent who always kept a box of eggshells. If they noticed their little kid was getting destructive, they’d offer the box of eggshells. The kid could crush and smash as much as they liked… and then it could all be tossed in the compost!

#9 Acknowledge Their Good Behavior

I love it when I get to say, “Well done, Buddy!” or “Wow, that was really helpful.”

And our kids love it even more.

In fact, they need it.

This is called positive reinforcement – reinforcing what we want to see rather than constantly pointing out what we don’t like.

This is so good for their self-esteem. It helps them learn what good, kind, and helpful behavior is.


Thanks for reading.

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