Creative Child

Try This to Calm Upset Children and Help Them Open Up

by Rebecca Eanes

Yesterday, I was helping my 8-year-old son with his math homework. He became frustrated and took that frustration out on me in the form of yelling. Here I was just trying to help him, and he was biting my head off! I completely understand getting frustrated with math because I hate it too, but yelling at me was obviously not an appropriate expression of his frustration; however, when I corrected him on the spot, it fueled the fire. I know to not try and reason with the reptilian brain, but I did it anyway, and as always happens when you poke a snake, he got even more riled up. So, when I said, “Hey! I’m just trying to help! Don’t yell at me!” he got even more frustrated and loud. The situation was escalating and I had to take a step back. So, then I remembered I was engaging with his reactive brain and that what we needed was to calm down first.

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I believe all children need a different approach, one that takes their unique personalities into consideration. While a time-in discussion always worked really well for my older son, when this particular boy gets agitated, it’s best to give him some space. While he was cooling down in his space, I had an idea. I grabbed a sheet of paper and I simply wrote this – “I was trying to help you, and you yelled at me.” Then I drew a little sad face to illustrate how that made me feel. I handed him the paper with a pen, smiled at him, and walked away.

A couple of minutes later, he brought the note back to me. It said, “I know. I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” I wrote back, “Yes, I forgive you. Words can hurt. Be more careful with them.” He wrote “Ok. Hug?” I hugged him and we moved on.

I was amazed at how well the note worked! In a short span of just a few minutes, he had calmed down, apologized, and offered to reconnect! For some of us, it’s easier to collect our thoughts and feelings with a pen in our hand, and it’s easier to express them on paper than it is verbally. This is the case for me (which is why I became a writer) and it seems to be the case for this 8-year-old boy as well. Maybe it’s the case for your child?

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The next time you’re in conflict with your kid, rather than sending her to her room or putting him in a time out chair, try slipping them a handwritten note and a pen. Keep your words short and kind, not accusatory or condemning. State what your child did that was wrong and how it made you feel. Then, give him time to collect his thoughts and write back. Continue this written exchange until the situation is resolved or tempers have cooled enough for verbal conversation to begin. This is a positive, non-threatening tool for resolving conflict that leads children to think about their actions and the consequences of those actions. It gives them a safe space to use their voice and state their own feelings and strengthens problem-solving and communication skills. I’ll definitely be using this tool again!

Rebecca Eanes, is the founder of and creator of Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond. She is the bestselling author of 3 books. Her newest book,Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, is more than a parenting book, it's a guide to human connection. She has also written The Newbie's Guide to Positive Parentingand co-authored the book, Positive Parenting in Action: The How-To Guide to Putting Positive Parenting Principles in Action in Early ChildhoodShe is the grateful mother to 2 boys.


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