Why Do Parents Overreact? A Simple But Powerful Tool to Help

There is no such thing as a perfect parent so just be a real one. – Sue Atkins

I love sharing inspiring quotes as part of my series of tips on parenting because so much of our job as a parent is keeping our vision for our family and our optimism, even when times are tough. Sometimes when our kids are tantruming, or our teen is rebelling, it is hard not to overreact. Even if you know that it is important to stay calm, you need to find a tool that works.

Do you find it hard to stay calm when your kids are misbehaving? Many techniques exist for helping us keep or regain our calm in the middle of an emotional storm. I’ll share a simple but powerful method below that has worked for me and thousands of others as a life preserver in the midst of rough family waters.

How do I stop overreacting?

(1) Count To 10

The technique is to breathe deeply and count to 10. In order to keep yourself from re-engaging and getting mad again, look away from your children, and observe your surroundings. (Of course, make sure your child is safe first.) You can mentally or out loud say to yourself, there’s a coat, a painting, etc. to focus yourself on your surroundings, and not on the incident that upset you.

Although I heard this tip when I first was battling my own emotional storms with my kids, I discounted it as too simplistic. The fact is that if you stop focusing on the kids and the turmoil around you and take a few deep breaths, your focus returns to the present, and you will calm down. 10 deep breaths are often enough to take you from reptilian flight or fight, back to your calmer, logical brain where more sophisticated controls are available.

(2) Breath And Relax

When my kids were fighting, I used to think it was too urgent for me to breath and relax. Yet by approaching them from a high level of emotion, I often fanned the flames of their emotion and caused the storm to grow. Even if you just breathe deeply as you are approaching your kids and observe your surroundings, that will help you be much calmer and more effective.

How do you deal with a misbehaving child?

Once you are back in control of the wheel, you will see be able to implement any techniques that you know to steer out of the storm. Most parents are aware of many great parenting techniques. I struggled for years with knowing what to do, and not doing it. A large part of the problem was I was overrun by my own emotional reaction, and so I wasn’t steering with the steering wheel. The most important thing to do is to regain access to your prefrontal cortex, which is where good decisions are made, and to get out of the reactive, reptilian brain that only makes the problem worse.

How do you discipline a child?

If you don’t know of any great techniques for dealing with tantrums, teen rebellion, etc, spend some time and get some help. Check out my Recommended Resources page for great courses from top parenting experts. The investment of a few hours of your time will pay off in thousands of hours of happier times as a family, more successful and resilient kids, and more peace and contentment as a parent.

Final Thoughts

Learning to stay calm and approach family issues more logically is truly one of the most powerful tips on parenting. Yet many parents have poor skills at managing their own reactivity. Help spread this powerful and easy technique by sharing this post with your family and friends and leave your comments below.

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