How to Parent with a Cool Head

We’ve all had that moment: we’re exhausted, frustrated, and our kids have crossed the line yet again. But our best parenting requires a cool head and principled action—not an emotion-driven reaction. So how do we keep our cool when the pressure is on?

1. Protect your own physical, emotional, and spiritual health. A parent who’s healthy, rested, and spiritually grounded is far more likely to parent intentionally and effectively. While it may seem self-indulgent to take the time necessary to sleep sufficiently, exercise, and spend time daily in prayer, it’s not just for you. It will also benefit your spouse and children immensely.

2. Identify trouble spots and prescribe consequences in advance. If your child struggles to be obedient or responsible in a particular area, take time to sit down (outside of a moment of disobedience, when things are calm) and think through what type of consequence would be appropriate and effective to change that behavior. Then make sure your child is aware of the consequence. Then, no matter how frustrated you are in the wake of the next offense, the proper response is already in place; you simply have to apply it.

3. Never discipline while angry. Let’s face it—sometimes our kids make us more than frustrated. They make us downright mad. Offenses like disrespectful speech or deliberate disobedience can anger us for a time. We’re human, after all. But while we’re still angry, we may overreact to an offense, or attempt to correct it in a way that just doesn’t work. It may be punitive, but doesn’t re-shape your child’s heart and mind in a truly formative way. The solution: give yourself time to cool off. You can tell your child that her behavior is wrong and that there will be a consequence, but you need to think about it. When you’ve had time to cool off, talk with her and proceed.

4. Be honest about the source of your stress. Sometimes our kids bear the brunt of frustration we feel toward others, but aren’t as free to express—our spouse, our boss, our finances, etc. Take a minute to ask yourself why you’re so on-edge. Is it really the kids, or are you at the end of your rope for other reasons? Work hard to protect your children from anger or frustration that would be better addressed in another arena of your life.

Dana Hall McCain writes about marriage, parenting, faith and wellness. She is a mom of two, and has been married to a wonderful guy for over 18 years.