Once the excitement of summer begins to wind down, we prepare for the shift back into the school routine. Oftentimes, with schedule changes come increased difficult behaviors. This presents a challenge not only to parents but to our children, who are expressing to us an underlying need or emotion. How can we manage the way we respond to the yelling, the flailing limbs, and the pushback? Here is a step-by-step process to help you navigate from stormy to peaceful waters.

  1. Cool down. Regulating our emotions in the midst of a toddler’s tantrum or a teenager’s defiance requires the practice of drawing from our own inner resources. That’s why it is more difficult to respond calmly when our own stressors are high and unmanaged. There is good news. Even in those tough moments, you can learn to find calm and respond with empathy, in order to guide in connection with your child.
  2. Understand. Empathy, or understanding, is not the same as agreeing. Your child could have no good reason, in your eyes, to want to drink out of a specific cup or have their banana peeled in a precise manner. What matters is that your child knows you are on their side, and that you are a safe space to hold their emotions. By offering our understanding while gently holding a limit, children are more likely to follow our lead.
  3. Guide. Children can receive your guidance once they have regulated in the presence of your calm and understanding. When they are upset, their brains temporarily go “offline”, and are therefore not receptive to a teaching moment. Give plenty of room for your child to practice and make mistakes along the way. It is hard even for adults to remember! And lastly, do not hesitate to reach out for support if you are finding that either you or your child is having a difficult time. Connecting the dots and having the right tools and resources can make all the difference.

Sammi Cesere is a Parent Coach at Inner Shift Parenting. Contact her at [email protected].