Making Families Grand: A good toolbox can take the stress out of parenting |

Making Families Grand: A good toolbox can take the stress out of parenting

Maegan Lokteff, PhD
Making Families Grand

As we get ready to head back to school in a couple of weeks a lot of families may be feeling a lot of stress. Getting kids back into the school year routine, trying to get everything purchased for school, and still squeezing in those last precious moments of summer can have parents running ragged and feeling burnt out.

It may feel like your parenting energy is gone and with good reason, sometimes it feels like nothing we do is working and we just snap. The good news is that parents are amazing people and we can dig down deep and find more energy, especially if when we have a full toolbox of parenting tools to fall back on before losing our tempers. Sometimes a parenting tool may work and other times it may flop. The more tools you have to deal with stressful parenting moments the better parent you can be. Here are some tools that every parent can put in their toolbox to try.

Breathe! Breathing is the number one way to relieve stress, especially when parenting! Taking deep breaths before engaging your child will help you to think clearly and calmly about what steps you want to take to correct misbehavior. It is also good to teach children to take deep breathes when they get frustrated and angry.

Sometimes children will mimic you if you if you are taking deep breathes and suddenly they will be calm. Other times you may need to remind them to take deep breathes. Practice this skill with your child by blowing paper across a table or put a small stuffed animal on their stomach and have them make it move just by breathing. Breathing, and getting your child to deep breathe, is the best thing you can do to calm down and relieve stress in your family!

Assess! When your child starts acting out take a few moments to assess why your child may be pushing the boundaries. Are they tired, hungry, sick, scared, anxious, overstimulated, or stressed out? When children act out they are trying to tell us something is wrong inside of them. If you can figure out what it is and address it the behavior may disappear.

Choices! Offering choices is a big part of parenting but sometimes we get a little carried away with the choices and when we offer them. Choices should be offered when there actually is a choice. For example, give a child the choice between brushing teeth and then reading books or reading books and then brushing teeth. This will help them to feel like they have some control over the situation. But remember, only offer choices you are willing to live with! Don’t offer the choice to stay in bed all day if you aren’t willing to let your child take you up on it.

Time In! When children are angry, upset, and out of control it is easy to think they need to be by themselves, and sometimes this is true, especially if you need a break too. But sometimes being by yourself can be really scary and for some children the threat of a timeout can send them into a behavior tailspin. When this is the case, try a TIME IN. Instead of sending your child by themselves, try sitting with them. You can hold them, sit next to them, or just place your hand on their back. Your calm physical presence can help them calm down quickly and both of you to a more relaxed place. You don’t have to talk or do anything special, just take some deep breathes and be in the moment with your child.

Parenting is a hard job and we can all use a little help once in a while, especially if we are feeling stressed at work or in our personal lives. The more tools we can pull out of our toolbox the more we can be there to support our children. For more parenting tools and resources check out our website at or like us on Facebook and get free parenting tips.

Maegan Lokteff, PhD, is Executive Director of Grand Beginnings.

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