4 Easy Ideas to Help Parents Keep Cool when Things Get Heated

By: Michele Timmons

Do your kids ever push you to the point where you’re “seeing red”? Since the beginning of time, kids have been pushing parents’ buttons, and it can be difficult to step out of the fire, cool off, and maintain a positive attitude despite the situation. Get tips >

As part of my blog research, I sometimes share my topic ideas with my Facebook friends and email contacts asking for insight, quotes, and strategies. One friend shared with me his family’s significant struggles with anger, abuse and mental health crises. And as I reflected on his story, the world in which he lives, and the cycle of abuse he has experienced, my blog took on a new perspective. Our current environment and past experiences—negative and positive—oftentimes guide our relationships with our children. And especially when things get heated, it is our ingrained reactions (or reflexes) which fuel our responses.

With this in mind, I’ve created few quote-inspired anecdotes which may help us pause and redirect ourselves when our children push us to the edge.

1. Inspiration: “Mommy, are you hungry?” ~Alex (age 3)

The acronym HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) is often used in addiction therapy. Recovering addicts are encouraged to pay attention to those feelings because by addressing those feelings, the person is less likely to turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with stress. It’s also a handy barometer for parenting! A friend mentioned she taught “HALT” to her children and tries to keep this in mind whenever she or her daughters begin arguing. This must work well in her household because one time when she was irrationally angry, her 3 year old daughter calmly said, “Mommy, are you hungry?” – and she was! My friend took herself out of the situation, got something to eat and was then able to sensibly resolve the conflict.

2. Inspiration: “You must not expect old heads upon young shoulders.” ~English Proverb

I often look at my teenage sons and wonder where their brains were when they did something outlandish or ridiculously stupid. I’m certain they should know better and am astonished when they look at me blankly and say “What?” It is during these times I try to remember this quote and how it relates to Dr. David Walsh’s research on adolescent brain development. Dr. Walsh states, “Slamming doors, defiant language, missed curfews, and inexplicably bad decisions: Adolescents have a reputation for this sort of thing. No matter how mild a child is when he’s very young or how sensible a person becomes once she reaches adulthood, the chances are good that just about all kids, more than once during the teen years, will make their parents feel as if their sanity is hanging by a thread.”

But why? Science provides a good reason: The prefrontal cortex (PFC) in an adolescent’s brain isn’t finished forming. Dr. Walsh explains, the “PFC acts as the executive center of the brain. This “CEO” of the brain is responsible for making decisions, weighing judgments, and considering consequences. The PFC is not developed when kids reach adolescence. In fact, the wiring of the PFC doesn’t finish until the late teens or early 20s.” This insight now gives me a reason to pause, breathe and think of a better way to reach them.

3. Inspiration: “Each day of our lives, we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.”~ Charles R. Swindoll, The Strong Family.

As a parent, it is my responsibility and blessing to raise my sons to become healthy, resilient adults. Sometimes I am so proud I could cry, and other times I want to spit nails. It is truly a balancing act to walk the line between parent and tyrant. I am their mother, not their friend or classmate. Charles Swindoll’s quote reminds me that my children are always watching me and I need to remember what I do and how I speak to them. Even when their behavior has driven me to the brink of insanity, I focus on addressing their behavior, not their person. I never call them names or direct profanity toward them. I wouldn’t permit such language from them, and they should never have to tolerate it from me. While they may not like my decisions, and are annoyed by my “nagging”, they will remember I love and respect them –even when I don’t like their behavior.

4. Inspiration: “The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”~ Princess Leia to Grand Moff Tarkin (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope)

Each stage of a child’s life brings new experiences, challenges and opportunities for growth. It also brings new power struggles between parents and children. As parents, we want to protect our children and we know the consequences which may result from poor choices. At the same time, we can’t wrap them in a bubble and only allow them to follow our lead. Our kids only learn to ride their bicycles once we learn to balance support and freedom. We make sure they are wearing a helmet and to pick them up with a smile and hug when they fall, but fall they must. As they grow up, we must continue to learn to balance support and freedom in new and more frightening arenas. Oftentimes, my own arguments with my sons are a result of their need to strike a new balance so they can build their own resiliency skills. When I hold too tight, I end up pushing them away. When I strike the right balance, I see them thrive and have the great joy of watching them grow into fantastic young men—at least until the next time they start to push my buttons!

All jokes aside, I love my children and make sure they hear me say it to them several times a day. Once in awhile they even say it back ;)

If you want to see some more ideas for resolving conflicts with your kids check out this blog. And if the struggles you and your children face are greater than you can deal with on your own, or if you fear there is an abusive situation in your home, don’t wait – seek professional help. WebMD has a great article on how to find a therapist. However, if you have a concern about potential or confirmed abuse visit www.childhelp.org or call 911.

Tell Me:——>I would love to hear quotes or strategies that help keep you from “seeing red”.

1. Famous Quotes – thinkexist.com and brainyquote.com.
2. David Walsh, Ph.D,“Betwixt and Between: A New View of the Adolescent Brain”, Minnesota Medicine, March 2006.
3. ParentFurther.com: Discipline and Values.
4. WebMD.com: “How to Find a Therapist”.
5. ChildHelp.org
6. Image via stevendepolo on Flick’r.


Sometimes it is good to just let kids be kids and not lose sight of what that really means. Kids being kids does not mean cursing at their parents, or running wild. There has to be constructive discipline that teaches kids “cause and effect” and that for every action there is a reaction, for both good and bad actions.



There always seems to be some parenting expert who thinks that children are to be handled with kid gloves and a lot of regulating but they probably don’t have kids themselves.

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