Why Cooling Off Is Your Best Parenting Tool.

Are you kidding me? Why is your room still such a mess? Stop whining I can’t stand it. I don’t care if you don’t like bok choy. You need to stop this and be a good boy/girl. Why can’t you just…

Cooling off is your best parenting tool.  It helps with finding solutions instead of finding blame.  When we feel better we do better.  #parenting #mom #positivedicipline #meditation #breathe

These are some of the phrases I’ve heard coming from loving, well meaning parents. Some of them I’ve heard come out of my own mouth.

We think we’re helping our children. Showing them that their misbehavior is inappropriate. We think that by nipping it in the bud and dealing with it right away we are solving the problem.

One hundred percent of the time our unkind words are coming from our own fear centers.

We fear embarrassment. Do the other people at Wal-Mart think my kid is an asshole?

We fear losing control of our children and having them control us.

We fear the suffering that comes from misbehaving kiddos.

Fear doesn’t come out as fear. It comes out as anger (the fight response) or shutting down and ignoring (the flight response).

When we shovel our fear onto our kids their mirror neurons activate and the are also driven into fight or flight mode.

Instead of taking in what we say they are reacting to how they feel. Scared, sad, hurt, angry.

There is no problem solving in this viscous cycle.

I know that as loving parents who want the very best for their children you are now asking “What the hell am I supposed to do?”


Remember that a misbehaving child is a discouraged child.  They are trying to make you see that they need your help, but they don’t know how.

Won’t it be too late to deal with the situation later?

Probably not.  And it will be a much more effective problem solving discussion when your’re both calm.

What does cooling off look like?

I have a friend who tells her kids that she has to go switch the laundry when she feels herself getting worked up.  This is brilliant.  It removes any blaming words she might have said to her children and gives her a quick out to get herself put back together before continuing the conversation.

Some of the cool off strategies I’ve used are:

  • Asking for a hug.  It may seem counter productive, but a 20 second hug produces enough oxytocin (the love hormone) to give us all sorts of warm fuzziness and promote trust. When humans feel better the are more apt to respond in better, kinder ways.
  • Go to my room. Yup I send myself for a positive time out.  I take a little time to breathe perhaps meditate (you can access my free, calming, guided meditation here.)
  • Practice some self kindness. This is my go to for public cooling off.  Take a deep breath. Hold your own hand if possible.  Then tell yourself kind things. Things like “Sarah (or your name if your not one of the 1 billion Sarahs in the world) I am here to help you.”  “This situation sucks but it will be over soon.” “You’ve got this and it’s going to be O.K.”
    Predetermine what phrases you think will be most helpful so you can access them easily when the fear section of your brain wants to take over.

Having calm, connected chats with your kids instead of wounding them with your words creates an environment of finding solutions, instead of finding blame.

It’s my goal to have solution oriented, kind kids.  I believe that our kids can be world changing amazing human beings.  And this can be accomplished through small shifts in how we treat them.

I would love to hear about the ways you cool down.  Leave me a comment.

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  • Katie says:

    Not the best at remembering to do it, but I’ve found the easiest way to diffuse my crazy is by just saying it outloud. Usually if I start to vocalize what I’m struggling with, I end up finishing the sentence with an apology, and a greater clarity to work with moving forward. I’m also hoping modelling humility with result in him using that in the future! “Noam, I’m feeling frustrated because you’re running away from me whenever I ask you to come… but.. I’m recognizing that it wasn’t really necessary to ask you to come right away, and I’m overreacting.”
    Love this post, Sarah! Danah and I were saying how much we wish we could take one of your workshops, as we are just in the thick of it! If you come up North before November, please let me know!! 🙂

    • Sarah says:

      Yes! Naming your feelings and getting them our of your head is a HUGE step in cooling off. When we shed light on our emotions they become way more manageable.

  • Teresa says:

    Knowing that angry feelings pass was helpful for me. Give them time, like lying on a meditation mat and meditating, and until you have a brilliant, USEFUL thought, don’t do anything.

    I think anger is a front feeling for a more underlying vulnerable feeling.

    ‘There is no fear in love’

    I am much better at harnessing my anger, thank you homeschooling for giving me so many opportunities, but I STILL find it challenging to hear, really hear, when someone else is angry.

  • Susan says:

    I love this and I know I’m guilty of reacting out of anger rather than love. There are times when my daughter (who is an older toddler) did something wrong, and I would get annoyed or upset, and then instantly would feel guilty. Most of the time, I try to keep my cool. After every time she is in time-out, I explain to her why she went to time-out, and I always hug her an tell her I love her.

  • So often in parenthood, I have to keep reminding myself that I need to follow the same rules as my kids. If I expect them to limit their screen time then I need to set the example and limit my screen time too. The same also goes for yelling and showing my anger.

    I’m constantly telling my kids to “take a break” or “cool down” but then I find myself forgetting to do the same things.

  • Giacinto Adventures says:

    This is so helpful. We just had a new baby and my toddler had been having more outburst. This iys a great way for me to show her how to act and not react to her actions.

  • I needed this reminder today. My daughter has been screaming with a cold for the past few days now. It’s important to remember to take a break!

    Josephine | Better as Us

  • Racheal says:

    Going to the room is my pill now. I will try & do that from now on. I really need to stop yelling at my son. Thanks for sharing. Great tios☺

  • stacey says:

    You make a great point that we need to have a strategy for doing this in public spaces. Why does it always feel like the biggest disasters happen in front of a million people?? Being afraid of what all those nosey people think sure brings out my worst sometimes!

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