Why it's important for Parents to Manage Challenging Emotions

By Monica Richardson, Executive Director of TAPS

Have you ever stopped to imagine your baby all grown up? What will your relationship be like then? Will you make time to connect regularly? Will you get together for family gatherings? Will it be different from your relationship with your parents? Or the same?

In her book, Zero to Five, Tracy Cutchlow challenges parents to do this when they're planning and waiting for baby. I also challenge parents to do this during the first year of baby's life and then again when they're a toddler - and then again as they enter grade school. Keeping the "end" in mind is a planning strategy that I find immensely useful in parenting. 

When I imagine my struggling toddler or preschooler as an adult - someone my age - and the kind of relationship I want to have with him; the kind of memories I want him to carry with him from his childhood, it's easier for me to take a deep breath and parent him with more empathy and compassion rather than yelling or lashing out. He's not going to be a child forever and he needs me to be the adult for him right now so that he'll know what an adult is supposed to be like when he becomes one. 

Think about the values you want your child to have as an adult - in fact, make a list, as Tracy suggests in her book. Save the list and share it with your partner. Are you modeling these things to your child? If not, how will you need to change to model these values going forward?

12 Tips for Managing Challenging Emotions

Often we struggle to match our parenting action with our parenting goals and values because each individual moment presents a set of challenges and micro decisions that aren't easy to sort out. My challenge to you in each moment - particularly as you work to manage your own emotions is to take the long road.

Here are some parenting tips for managing challenging emotions in the moment from Prevent Child Abuse NC. Next time you feel like lashing out at your children, try these methods instead:

  1. Take a deep breath...and another. Then remember you are the adult.
  2. Close your eyes and imagine you're hearing what your child is about to hear.
  3. Press your lips together and count to 10...or better yet, to 20.
  4. Put your child in a time-out chair (remember this rule: one time-out minute for each year of age).
  5. Put yourself in a time-out chair. Think about why you are angry: is it your child, or is your child simply a convenient target for your anger?
  6. Phone a friend.
  7. If someone can watch your children, go outside and take a walk.
  8. Take a hot bath or splash cold water on your face.
  9. Hug a pillow.
  10. Turn on some music. Maybe even sing along.
  11. Pick up a pencil and write down as many helpful words as you can think of. Save the list.
  12. Call for prevention information: 1-800-CHILDREN

Let us know if you tried any of these tips! We'd love to hear from you. Join our TAPS Network to be a part of the conversation and community!