Tips for Parents to Do the Most Important Thing in Childraising


Every parent gets angry. That is to be expected, so go easy on yourself when it happens. But there are things you can do before you do any disciplining. This is crucial; it also models how to deal with anger for your child.  

Below, find techniques to calm yourself. Only after feeling calm can you re-engage your child in a productive way. 

(However, if you feel your issue is more severe anger, get practical help at: "My Personal Anger Issue.")


Helping Parents Calm Themselves


Here, we are selecting helpful tips from Jane Nelsen, Joan Durrant  and Judy Arnall's parenting classes and books to help you with this. For tips on helping your child calm him- or her-self, go to:

Time in and time outs 

"Time Out" is for parents, ("Time In" is for children) We can't imagine a parent who doesn't get angry from time to time considering all the stress and triggering that parenting involves. parent child confrontationBut it is still critical that you calm yourself before doing any disciplining with your child. It is the only way your disciplining will be productive and help your child learn life skills...and make you feel good about yourself.

The three steps that ideally take place when an "incident" occurs (like your child pouring cracker crumbs all over the rug in his room and then stomping on them) would look like this. 

1. Make sure your child is in a safe place, ideally in a favorite "time in" spot or with an older child.

2. Use Calming techniques for yourself. (below)

3. When both you and your child are calmer and distracted at least somewhat from the triggering feelings, time for a discussion. This creates the structure part of positive discipline and it is when you can express what you are expecting from your child. Your child also gets a say in this discussion, and if listened to empathically will get even calmer. 

4. Finally, you will move into a collaborative problem solving time. A wonderful, real example of this can be found from Judy Arnall's experience here and scroll to bottom of page.


Tips for controlling your anger:

  1. Count to10 before you say or do anything. If you still feel angry, walk away and give yourself time to calm down by distracting yourself with something you like. 

  2. Drop your shoulders, breathe deeply and look at a plant or flower till you see something new in the way it looks. 
Clean the sink, vacuum, weed, or such things you do easily.
  3. Put your hands behind your back and tell yourself to wait. Don’t say anything until you have calmed down. Think how much bigger you are than your child.
 Then do something you are learning like the piano, or a dance, or a video game.
  4. Go for a walk and think about the situation. Maybe read a book you are into.  Think about something you love about your child. Wonder about what he or she is feeling, and what is driving his action. Plan a response that respects her point of view and also explains why you got angry. 

  5. Go someplace quiet and work through the steps of positive discipline. For Instance think about which of your possible triggers are in operation. Possibly you feel defied, stupid, embarrassed, etc.
  6. Return to you child when you have planned a response that meets your long-term goals, provides warmth and structure, and recognizes how your child thinks and feels. 

  7. Remember that the whole episode is really a good one, since it provides another opportunity to teach your child how to resolve conflict through communication and problem-solving. You might find you are growing also.
  8. If you can't yet calm down, take a walk or call a friend, but don't dwell on your anger. Best to do or talk about something really fun or different from the episode like a meal, a movie, an event you enjoyed. 
  9. Or cry, yell into a pillow, hiss,  grunt out loud, and see if any of the above helps now.  

Anger is a signal that you and your child do not understand each other’s points of view. It tells you that your communication needs to be restored. 

Judy Arnall's book Parenting With Patience is extremely well organized, detailed, and comfortable to read. image004 

One of the most common triggers for parents is when they perceive their child deliberately disobeying them. The urge to not let them "win," can rush into the head so fast you can hardly see it coming. Understanding the child's developmental stage is a better bet to see what is going on. Look for the humor in how hard it is to be a parent and stay cool. This is a kind and good way to see how easy it is to "lose" it. Don't expect to not get mad, only to control it away from your child. 

Getting below the behavior to what’s underneath often solves the problem. Look for the need or emotion in your child, and then in yourself.


Tips for helping your child with anger.  (From Parenting With Patience, Judy Arnall)

  1. Children need to learn to use words also. Help them own the feeling, by saying things like, "I see you are feeling angry." This helps them own their feeling instead of their blaming others with,"You make me angry." angrylatinoboy
  2.  Accept the feeling, "We all get angry at times." "It's okay to cry or be angry."
  3. Recommend an action. Children are active and physical. Here are physical tips for children to safely release their anger:
  4. Expelling breath helps a lot like hissing, blowing into a tube like an empty paper towel roll, loud panting, saying, Grrrrr.
  5. Give some Playdough* they can pound into. None of this will increase their anger. Or, let them draw something, or shape the Playdough* into something. Let them dance in their safe space. Put on their favorite music to help this. Or dance with them. 
  6. Offer to get a glass of water, give a little space by excusing yourself to go to the bathroom. 
  7. At times, children want to be held, but other times they don't. Respect their desire.
  8. After the time in for them and time out for you, get back together and allow them to share what's going on, validate, and share your own feelings. Slowly move to mutual problem solving.    Arnall's book has lots more on this and tantrums.


A note on toddlers’ negativism  From Joan Durrant, Ph.D

It is completely normal for toddlers to refuse to do things that you want them to do. They are not doing this to make you angry or to defy you. They are doing this because they have discovered that they are individuals and they are experimenting with their ability to make decisions. 

Sometimes you will explain things to them, but they still won’t do what you ask them to do. This is because they want to make their own choices. 

It can be helpful at this stage to offer children choices so that they can exercise their decision-making skills. “Do you want to wear your green coat or your yellow coat?” “Would you rather walk or be carried?” As long as the child chooses one of them, your short-term goal is met. 

Just be sure that the choices you offer are choices that you can accept. If you have to go somewhere, don’t say, “Do you want to go or do you want to stay home?” If the child chooses staying home, but you have to go, pissedblackgirlyour child will only learn that his choices don’t matter and that you don’t mean it when you offer them. 

Also, a threat is not a choice. “Either put on your coat or I’ll slap you/leave you home by yourself/never take you with me again.” This is not a choice, but a threat. Threats only lead to fear in your child. They also create a trap for the parent. If your child refuses to put on his coat, you will feel that you must follow through on your threat, which will only make the situation worse.


Understanding your parenting style can give

parenting styles from Judy Arnall

you some insights into your frustrations:

Here is a chart from Judy Arnall's Parenting

With Patience. Also looking at this chart from the same book can help you think about your long term goals for your child. 

Punishment vs discipline from Arnall 










If you calm yourself by walking around the block, you can think about what you want your child to learn along with obedience to you.

Time out is a positive life skill. It could save your child's life. When you model it, you model and teach positive self control. 

Our Mission

The MISSION of the Action Team to End Hitting Children is to gather many people to do small jobs for the purpose of diminishing and finally ending the hitting of children. By "htiting" we mean to include beating, spanking, slapping, shaking, popping, and any other form of physical or emotional punishment that demeans the child and creates emotional, mental, and physical harm. Our strategy is to use many people to do small amounts of work that create momentum to make a difference. 

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