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Help Kids Calm Down

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I find I always have to take a deep breath when my daughter shouts and screams.

It’s not as if she does it all the time. But like most children she shouts sometimes if she’s angry about not getting her own way.

And sometimes when she’s frustrated with me and can’t find the words to express it.

And sometimes when she’s exhausted and struggling to move from one activity to another.

And sometimes, the red mist descends and I can’t stop shouting back.

The Red Mist Descends

All my frustrations at juggling a million things badly spill over. And the nagging fear I’m a rubbish mum because I have a shouty, screaming child bubbles up.

I snap and snarl unreasonably and instantly loathe myself for doing it. For what my daughter desperately needs is me to help her learn to calm herself down when she gets mad.

Of course, of course, she also needs to know she will never ever get what she wants from me by shouting and to get mad less in the first place

But at the same time I don’t want her to think it is completely wrong to feel angry … there are so many things in the world it is reasonable and right and important to feel angry about.

The lesson she needs … cripes the lesson I still need! … is how to handle that anger so that it doesn’t become self destructive.

So we’ve been trying out different tactics to help both of us to express our anger constructively and not to be overwhelmed by it ….

Different tactics seem to work best for different children and at different times so we’ve had to experiment a bit but have also found that they are more effective the more we practice them …

1. Offering Time Alone

I know time out works for lots of families but it hasn’t for us.

What is working much better is asking, “would you like some time on your own?”, which will help her build the skill of calmly walking away for a few minutes from situations when she feels her anger rising uncontrollably.

It’s not always what’s needed but often my daughter grabs at the invitation and takes herself off behind the curtain to “mutter” to herself as she calls it.

I’m trying to lead by example by calmly walking away rather than stalking out.

2. Do A Belly Flop

I’m such a fan of simple breathing exercises for managing emotions but they can be tricky to explain to kids, so I love this belly flop trick.

When we want to calm down we “flop” our bellies … mummy’s is big, so it’s very funny 🙂 … which automatically helps us to take nice deep breaths.

3. Silly Slow Counting

My daughter loves to count, so really enjoys silly slow counting e.g. one big smelly elephant, two big smelly elephants, three big smelly elephants.

Concentrating on the numbers distracts from the anger and automatically slows down our breathing and our heart rate and stops all the angry hormones being released.

4.Checking It’s Not a False Alarm

A classic behaviour technique is to get kids to rate how big the problem is that has made them angry or anxious and this is a really fun way to do it.

We talked about our fire alarms and how they go off because mummy is burning sausages rather than because there’s a fire and how we don’t want the fire brigade out for burnt sausages.

And then I explained feeling angry is a bit like a fire alarm and sometimes we get angry when it’s just burnt sausages and not a real fire.

If my daughter’s got mad about something small we talk about whether it’s really a fire that needs the fire brigade or whether it’s just burnt sausages.

5. Robot and Rag Doll

Tensing all your muscles up and then relaxing them all is a great way to turn off anger. And the robot and rag doll is a lovely way to introduce this to kids.

First we stiffen up like a robot and then go floppy like a rag doll. Repeating a few times and making a dance of it helps everyone laugh and relax.

Help kids calm down ... simple parenting tips to help kids calm down when they get mad. These have really helped us with tantrums and meltdowns.

Pat Jones

Saturday 31st of October 2015

Thank you!

Only today I've felt like banging my head to bits at my three-year-old's shouting and hitting. These techniques sound very helpful, especially as he loves numbers and counting.

Quiet time on his bed should also help. I'm sure I'll get a chnace to try most of these out.


Saturday 31st of October 2015

Do hope they help Pat - the numbers and counting has definitely a big winner for us.

Mummy Tries

Wednesday 21st of October 2015

What a fabulous post! You are so right about letting the red mist fade before trying to problem solve. Love the idea of the robot and rag doll, I'll definitely remember that one xx


Monday 20th of July 2015

Funnily enough, we are going through a bit of a phase where my son gets very cross, doesn't listen and responds back very badly. He will say things like "don't talk to me like that" or "why do you always shout at me" when I haven't even started. He is 4 with a 1 year old, younger sibling which has changed the whole balance of powers and attention for him. He is not mean to his little brother at all, but i wonder if sometimes he is trying to hold back, a lot towards him. He has also just finished his nursery and might be going through an emotional period but doesn't know how to express it. When he shouts I do sometimes shout back, which puts him off for a while but it is not a good example, so i don't like doing it. So we will try your techniques, the belly flop, robot and rag doll, 'time alone' definitely works for him. It is good to have an array of tool that we can make use of at different times. The most embarrassing though is when is misbehaves at grandparents' house... i will definitely need some tool to face these situations. But i do come from a different upbringing where if your parents tell you to do something, you do it and don't discuss. And you keep quiet when they tell you off. It worked in our time. Laura


Wednesday 17th of June 2015

I've used the silly counting technique three times in the last 2 days and it's worked wonderfully! Thanks for a great article.


Thursday 18th of June 2015

Oh I am so glad it has helped you too Melanie - been brilliant for us as well xx


Tuesday 16th of June 2015

Great post. I've been working on just this issue with my son. Breathing works great, but hard to explain to him how to do, especially in a heated moment. Can I ask more about what you mean about "flop our bellies"? I'm not sure I understand what you are doing and how to teach my son what to do. Thanks so much!


Wednesday 17th of June 2015

Hi Amanda - we found it helpful to practice the breathing when we weren't stressed as a sort of mini yoga exercise. the thing that helped most was my daughter seeing and feeling my tummy going in and out :-) To flop our bellies we just bend over from the middle when standing up and let all our top halfs, tummies, arms, head etc flop down. Hope that makes sense and that the tips help x