Creative Child

Weathering Your Child’s Emotional Storms

by Rebecca Eanes


Weathering the storm doesn’t mean that we fail to address a problem behavior but rather that we wait until our children’s brains are calm and the “thinking brain is online” so that they can optimally learn what we want to teach them about their behavior. Learning is best done in the context of a positive, calm mind with a person the child is attached to. This means that it is the relationship, not the “discipline,” which has the most impact on how well our children learn.

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That leaves the question then, “What do I do in the midst of the storm?” What’s the best way to handle the incident? Follow these 3 steps to get your ship safely through to the other side:

1. Address the misbehavior very simply. Being too wordy is a common mistake, and one I’ve made too often. Remember that the goal right now isn’t to correct the behavior but to simply stop it and get to that place of calm. Leave out condemning words that will only add fuel to the fire, such as “You’re naughty!” and stick to a plain and simple, “I won’t let you hit your sister.”

2. Change the circumstances, not the child. During the storm, trying to change your child is futile because she’s not listening well. Changing the circumstances is a much better way to get through the incident. That might mean leaving a playdate or park, taking your child to a calm down area, giving a hungry child a snack, or giving a tired child a nap.

3. Remain connected. It’s common practice in today’s culture to use separation-based discipline or other punishments, but these, too, only fan the flames. A misbehaving child is already having some kind of emotional turmoil, and these punishments trigger the alarms even more, only making emotions run higher. Staying connected simply means you do not withdraw your warmth and love and that you let your child know that the relationship is bigger than this particular problem. The message is “I don’t like the action you took, but I love YOU always.”


After the storm is over and brains are calm, teach. “Earlier when you were angry, you hit your sister. Hitting is not okay. Let’s think of some better ways you can handle anger.” “You were very mad at me today in the store because I wouldn’t buy you that lollipop. You yelled at me, and I don’t like to be yelled at. Do you? The next time you are mad, you can tell me you want your stress ball to squeeze.” Be as positive and playful as you can during this time of teaching because, remember, positive emotions help a child learn!


Amen, Daniel. Healing the Hardware of the Soul, The Free Press, 2002.

Goleman, Daniel. Emotional Intelligence, Bantam Books, 1997.

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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