Staying connected in hard moments


I have a question for you all. When in the midst of a hard moment with a child who is losing his cool, it can be so easy to go into face-off mode.  What ways have you found to help your child get back on track behavior-wise while still honoring your child’s feelings and nurturing your relationship with each other?

I’ve found that one thing that helps is to acknowledge the emotions that led the child to misbehave in the first place. For example, if a child is in trouble for not doing a chore, before talking about how the child should have handled my request, I’ll verbalize understanding about how hard it is to quit doing something else that is more fun.  Or if a kid just called a sibling a name, I’ll try to find out what led to his frustration in the first place.  Sometimes there’s just no calming down an upset kid, but often going a little deeper into feelings and motivations helps my kids feel more understood.  Even if they end up still having to empty the dishwasher anyway.

What have you found to be helpful and relationship-building when your child is upset?  If you had a recent success, or if you have a moment this week that goes especially well, I’d love to hear your story.  Motherhood is a tough gig.  Let’s encourage each other!


  1. I had found sharing my own feelings is very building. If I can identify with what they are feeling, I will talk about it from my own experiences. I am very open with children. This seems to make them realize a bit that they are not the only one hurting in the world. I tell them I’ve learned that this sort of flipping out thing doesn’t help me feel better, but talking it out; hugging; etc. can help. I also tell them how them losing their cool hurts me. Sometimes (if they feel compassion), that will stop it right there, and they will be remorseful.

  2. Tracy Phillips says:

    My kids are 9 and almost 8, but have a very hard time naming what they are feeling. I’m looking at them saying “I know you feel angry” and they’re all “no I’m not!” So, I’m no help because I’m not sure how to get to where you are! I just came to agree…it’s tough!!

    • Yup, some kids have a terrible time naming feelings, don’t they? It has kinda helped me a bit to remember that the base emotion, whether they realize it or not, is often fear. And who wants to admit that? No wonder they don’t feel like delving deeper.

      • good points Mary, it is so important to remember to look for what the fear is that is motivating the actions.

  3. Beth in the City says:

    I watched a video that you posted, Karen Pervis I think? It talked about building relationship. I am no expert but I try to build relationship with my teen so that when I have to discipline or instruct there is that to fall back on. I attempt to discipline, then move into relationship before we end the conversation. I can’t think of any great examples but this has helped tremendously although it is still a hard journey.

    • Yes, good point. And along those same lines– major in the majors, so you don’t spend all your relationship clout on something not very important. (that’s sometimes a rabbit trail I am tempted down.) 😉

  4. My adult children have told me the best things I ever did when they were starting to have an ‘attitude’ was to just let them go in their room and sit for a bit, if they wanted to talk about it sit and talk and listen attentively.
    My teens are glad we don’t have cellphones, computers, constant television at our home. They know they can talk about anything at any time and their will be no electronics to interrupt or pull attention from the conversation.
    Also a household with too much activity can be very stressful and set people on edge for no particular reason other than there is just too much noise. So, our house is relatively quiet and no one would guess how many children are in it at any given time.

  5. With our kids, it’s helpful to ask what was happening right before the misbehavior . . . and then help them identify what they were feeling by saying it ourselves, “So when that happened, were you feeling ______?” And also, we remind them that we’re on their side, that our job is to help them learn something now, while the consequences are small (compared to later in college, with a boss, etc.).

  6. LeeAnn Howe says:

    I just experienced a rough morning with my 5-year-old, Gabe. He was yelling at all of us this morning & making it difficult (& annoying!) For all of us to get ready. I just left him alone but offered him grace and let let him chill. After a few minutes of unwinding, he came to me and apologized on his own.