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“How do I get my child to calm down?”

“How do I teach them it’s ok to be angry, but it’s not ok to hit?”

“What book can I read to teach my child not to hit?”

“Is there a good book about anger to help my child learn what to do with the angry feelings they feel?”

I could respond to the question directly, give parents a book list. Give them a cute little social story about “hands are not for hitting”, teach them breaths, or yoga poses. Instead, I hit them with this response: “The goal isn’t to get your child to calm down. The goal is to keep ourselves calm and create relational & emotional safety, over and over and over again.”

The cute, tangible exercises…

do absolutely NOTHING if there’s not relational safety.

We teach children that angry is a safe feeling by helping them feel safe when they’re angry.

Over and over and over again.

We teach children that “disappointment” (not getting what you want) is a manageable feeling by managing our OWN feelings in the face of upset over and over and over again.

We cannot manage others’ feelings.

It’s impossible. I’ve tried.

We can only turn inward and build our own emotional regulation and resiliency. Then we can turn outward and offer that feeling of safety and confidence to our own children.

Do I find value in teaching emotions, breath work, safe spaces?

Yes. Absolutely.

Can they replace a calm, regulated adult?


Would it be SO MUCH EASIER to bring out a pinwheel and hand it to your child to cue them to breath during a tantrum rather than heal our own emotional wounds? Yes.

Is it as effective and powerful?


It starts with us. And this journey is never over. We will never be the always “calm” never-ruffled parent. That’s ok. Embracing our humanity is also a very important skill to model.