Tips to calm your upset child


Tips to calm your upset child

Raising you children is beautiful and empowering for parents but sometimes can be such a stressful and frustrating thing. Kids these days are surrounded by so many distractions that they become quite easily tired and of course that will cause them to misbehave and become frustrated and angry.

And of course that means that as a parent you will feel wound up by your child behaviour and occasionally lose your cool. And if you do and scream or slap your child in the heat of the moment you will most definitely regret after it.

So what can you do if you don’t want to be put in the shoes of the screaming parent? What should you do if you don’t want your child to later follow your steps?

Be sympathetic and listen 

It can be hard to understand why your child might want to wear a particular dress, pair of socks of trousers. Try and validate their emotions. Imagine if someone will make you wear something you don’t like. Your child will never intentionally try to drive you crazy or manipulate you. Until around 3 or 4 years old It is simply developmentally impossible as it requires a toddler to be able to understand that other people have beliefs and intentions different from their own.

If you have a toddler, remember he is just a little person amazed about this new ability to move and explore. A toddler simply doesn’t understand that his actions affect other people as he has not developed the ability to self-control. Plus, he has no sense of time so he simply can’t wait. My 3 year old daughter often says “now mummy please” and I reply “wait 1 minute” to which she replies “what’s wait mummy”. For them everything is immediate.

With my 7 year old daughter and with any other older child things are a bit different. If you feel like an older child deliberately winding you up then question yourself why they might act like that. Sometimes when my 7 year old just demands and demands I sometimes prefer to give up and give her what she wants rather than argue but that is just not the best way to act. Maybe your child also learnt that by winding you up they will always get what they want? Try to listen when your child is talking and tell him how good it is when his behaviour is positive .

Remind them to express their emotions 

Don’t cry. Don’t scream. Don’t laugh so loud. Imagine how it will be for you if someone will constantly tell you what not to do. So listen to your child and encourage him to tell you what he feels. Emotions are part of every person development.

Getting upset, frustrated, mad or angry is as normal as being happy and smiling. Explain him that even you as an adult experience a large set of emotions too.

Try and name the emotions when they happen. For example “I hear you laughing, are you happy?” , “I know you are sad mummy needs to go to work” . Naming emotions allows children to develop an emotional vocabulary and when they do it enables them to talk about their feelings.

Be an example for your child and talk about your own feelings and how you express your feelings. What do you do when you feel sad, angry or happy?

If you scream and slap when you are frustrated and angry your child will take your example. So it is better to teach them how to manage their emotions when they are still young.

Manage your own anger

Like I said above try and be an example. I know how hard it is to stop yourself reacting when you are angry. But anger usually leads to shouting and rash decisions: “Go to your room and stay there”, “That’s it no more playground or iPad for a week!”. We usually don’t follow the things we say in anger or we feels sorry after that and we take back any punishment we shouted out at them.

Plus if you do something like that you will only cause your child to get upset and anxious.  Getting angry is ok if it doesn’t control you.

Dr Victoria Samuel says it is best to:

“Tune into your body and learn to recognise early warning signs that you’re getting annoyed such as heart racing, feeling shaky or getting sweaty. Whenever you notice your body’s angry warning signs kicking in, stop what you are doing and try to look objectively at what has wound you up. This will help you to feel more in control. State your feelings, without attacking. Use ‘when…then’: “When you call me names I get upset”.Now is not a good time to get into a debate. Show willingness to resolve things but just not now – “We can talk about this tomorrow over breakfast, but right now I’m feeling too wound up”.

If your child is safe, take time out , saying “I need some time to cool down”. Remove yourself from the situation. Take deep breaths; in through your nose and out through your mouth, trying to slow your breath as much as possible. Try clenching your hands tight as you breathe in then releasing them as you breathe out. This will turn down your body’s fight-flight response and makes you feel calmer. 

If it’s hard to leave your child, use distraction techniques (counting, reciting song lyrics or a poem in your head) to stop yourself from reacting rashly. Use positive self-talk – say to yourself “I’m doing the best I can” or “Keep calm!” Displace your anger by whatever means works for you – vacuuming, singing along to a favourite song, doing exercise.”


In order to summarise all I said above and more I thought it will be good to put together the infographic below:

Tips to calm your upset child

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Source: *picture – Flickr Petr Sal



14 thoughts on “Tips to calm your upset child

  1. I’ve always found that there is a difference between a physically upset child and an emotionally upset one and I treat each situation differently. Hugs and kisses tend to work with physical ailments and a listening ear or ability to not allow the child to push my buttons seems to be the main two with emotional upsets. It isn’t easy to be a parent but as long as we are doing the best job we can, that’s all we can ask for.

  2. Really good tips. I’ve had to manage some tricky relationships recently, and I’ve found even with adults, trying to understand what it is that’s going through their heads – what’s motivating them – is a really good basis for figuring out a compromise. It’s hard work for sure, but calming situations down is always going to produce a better longer term result.

  3. Ah, I spend my whole life using these strategies and more… children with PDA have an anxiety worry cup which is already almost full to overflowing and it pays to stay calm… Great tips 🙂

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