How to Talk with your Kids When Emotions Run High

Sometimes, being a parent just isn’t fun. When your child has done something that makes you feel angry, such as disobeying you, fighting with a sibling or not telling the truth, emotions can run high. We’ve all been there, and the tendency to lash out in anger is perfectly normal. But we can manage that anger, and find ways to cope when our kids misbehave.

First off, know that kids are not perfect and they will ALL misbehave at times.

It may be difficult, but don’t assume this behavior is a reflection of you as a parent.

Instead, think about how you approach your child when they have done something that makes you angry. These interactions are incredibly important not only to their self-esteem, but to your relationship as a whole.

Children learn by experimenting and pushing the limits, in fact it is part of their developmental progression. A 12 month-old that colors on the walls is different than a 4 year-old who sprays shaving cream all over his room. A 3 year-old may ‘lie’ because they are afraid of getting into trouble. A 6 year-old that that is lying may need more support. These are all completely natural behaviors, but for parents, they can be difficult to manage.

When your child has done that is clearly out of the limits of acceptable behavior, your first instinct may be shout or to shame. Instead, count to 10 and process what you are going to say or do, before you say or do it!

If this means you need to look the other way and compose your thoughts, great!

When you are ready, try using simple language with your child, stating what you see that the child has done. Avoid asking multiple questions in a row, and be sure to get at eye level with your child.

For instance, you might say: “I saw you hit your brother.”

Then, tell them why this behavior is not acceptable: “We don’t hit people.”

Ask your child to do the appropriate action. Sometimes, saying “sorry: isn’t enough and you may ask your child to do something that is positive for the person they have hurt, like giving them a hug checking in with them to make sure they are okay. Try to involve your child in part of the solution instead of forcing the behavior. For example, ask your child what he/she thinks would be a nice thing to do to show they know what they did was wrong.

In stressful situations, try to avoid the following:

  • Standing above your child
  • Yelling
  • Asking multiple questions in a row: “Why did you do this?” “What made you do it?” “What is wrong with you?”
  • Shaming your child or telling them they are ‘”bad.” People aren’t “bad,” but sometimes they don’t make good choices

It is also very important to maintain a dialogue with your children about different types of emotions. You can read books on subjects like being a good sibling or friend and being kind.  Use the books as a springboard to talk about these subjects at other times during the day.

Finally, don’t forget to catch your child doing positive things! Praise them for acts of kindness and showing compassion and empathy towards others. By reinforcing positive behavior, you can help avoid frustration down the road!


Curly Clues Club is a monthly box delivery service for kids ages 3-8, focused on social and emotional development.

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Jane Koerbel