14 Ways to Avoid Losing Your Temper with Your Kids

yelling momSure, almost all parents lose their tempers with their kids sometimes. But if doing so NEVER makes our parenting any easier, then why not try to stay calm?  Here are a few tried and true methods that have worked for me:


  •   Expect your kids to embarrass you at times. Expect them to make mistakes. Expect them to do things you never imagined they would ever do—like buttering bread and then putting it in the toaster. By expecting them to behave like children, you are less surprised and less emotionally engaged when they do.


  • Still, when I am caught off guard and they shock me, I usually shout, “WOW! WOW…that really surprises me that you just did that!…” This allows my rush of emotions to flow into the harmless word “WOW!” (Sure, sometimes there have been 5-6 WOWs.” The message that is sent is also one that doesn’t tear the child down, leading to more poor behavior. It actually sends the message that their bad behavior is NOT what I expected, which affirms their desire to be good.


  • Keep an eye on kids who are hungry, tired, or bored. These external forces may invite poor behavior. Try to keep them fed, rested, and not pushed to a point of breaking. I’m all for a little forced boredom, but don’t set them up to fail. It’s not an excuse for bad behavior, but it sure makes it more understandable.


  • Assume the best. I remember walking into the kitchen and Bryan (age 4) had pulled almost everything out of the lower kitchen cabinets. I took a deep breath and asked, “What is going on in here?” His response, “I’m helping you organize your cabinets!” Another time someone used a broom to sweep up all the shredded cheese they scattered on the wood floor leaving a large smear of cheese. “Thanks for helping! I’ll take it from here…”


  • A basic assumption of goodness can also apply to sibling relations. I remember so many times when one of the younger boys would holler in pain from upstairs, and I would shout up, “Hey, Christopher’s hurt. Someone go help him!” Even though we knew that the “someone” was probably the person who caused him to yell in the first place. The “someone” helped and the episode ended without solidifying this dance with, “Stop picking on your brother!!” A great consequence for sibling disputes is simply not allowing them to play together for awhile. “This much arguing is not healthy for you guys. It’s time to play alone.”


  • Avoid the “talk, repeat, repeat louder, yell, freak-out” dance. Before speaking, ask your child to look at you. “Michael, look at me. I need you to ….” Then follow through with what you asked. Sometimes I say in a silly voice what I want them to be thinking, “Sure thing, Mom. I’m on it!”


  • Train your kids in the important life skill of “accepting ‘No’ as an answer.” Everyone needs to learn that sometimes the answer is “No.” Talk about this life skill outside of frustrating conversations. Challenge the child to make progress in maturing in this area. Kids want to be mature. Simply ask, “Are you still having trouble accepting ‘No?’ Why don’t you go to your room and try to regroup. You’ll figure it out sometime.”


  • Recognize what is not your problem. Bad grades? Not your problem. Missing homework? Not your problem. Forgotten lunch? Not your problem. As a parent you can be encouraging and supportive. Sure, if irresponsibility or laziness is behind it you may need to “help” by structuring the day with homework time before playtime, but NOT as a punishment. They may just need your “help” not your anger. Let the bad grades do their job. DON’T work to avoid low grades in elementary or middle school. They are the perfect consequence. Trust me, you want them to get a zero and learn of its power early on.


  • Rather than getting upset, write the problem/misbehavior down on a piece of paper. If the child expects you to freak out, writing things down really throws them off balance. When the crazy moment has passed, look at the misbehavior(s) and make a plan with child. “We can’t live like this with all the _________going on. Let’s figure out what will happen next time you ___________”


  • Know what you can’t control and don’t even TRY to control it. You can’t make a child eat, sleep, poop, or stop crying. Time how long tantrums last. Set goals for minimizing the time spent with out-of-control emotions. “After 7 minutes of crying a day, it must mean you need more sleep…less sugar…less TV…” Also, you really can’t make your child do their homework. Release being the homework police, the exercise police, the clean-plate police, the clean room police. Control what you CAN like TV, video games, serving good food, limiting sugar treats, hosting Saturday cleaning parties, limiting cell phones and texting etc. Set up times for homework if necessary, but they have to be the ones to follow through and do it. Admit, “I can’t make you do your homework. That’s your job and not mine.”


  • Let your kids fail. Failure is a great teacher. When we add our encouragement and compassion to a failure, it draws us closer to our kids rather then allowing our anger to shift the attention to us.


  • Don’t get sucked into the escalating game. Rather than getting upset with a situation growing out of control, shift gears. Surprise them. I would sometimes tell the kids it was bath time and put them all in the tub or simply put everyone in the car to go somewhere, anywhere. Now that they are older, “Everybody outside!” is a game-changer.


  • Remember to laugh. Some of the chaos is really pretty funny—in hindsight. So why not take it less seriously in the moment? Despite Parenting Magazine making us feel like any parental inconsistency will destine our kids to a life of crime, our every response is really not that critical. Give yourself grace. Certainly don’t live in anger, but if you do get angry and freak-out? Apologize. Quickly. What a great model of strength to our kids! Mom is strong enough to admit she was wrong.


  • 85% behavioral success rate is good enough for me. Seriously, if my kids are 85% obedient, and 85% kind, and 85% respectful…I can work with that. Why get angry about the 15% we are still working on? Maturity is working with us. They’ll get there. And it will be even faster if they are not distracted by how mad they are at us for being mad at them!


 14 Ways to Avoid Losing Your Temper with Your Kids


  1. I love the last line!!!! And it will be even faster if they are not distracted by how mad they are at us for being mad at them!!! So wise! Thanks, Marianne!

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