4 ways to project calm in heated moments with your child

Learn simple strategies for keeping your cool — and why this may be the single most important thing parents can do when kids are upset.

By Andrew Kahn, PsyD

Updated December 11, 2023

Keeping cool, or “projecting calm,” may be the single most important thing parents can do in a heated moment. Looking angry or stressed can ramp up your child’s responses. But your positive actions can help turn things around for the better.

“Projecting calm” is all about being aware of how your actions can impact the moment. It means making small changes to help ease big feelings. Little things can make a difference, like noticing your body language and not raising your voice. 

Keeping your cool doesn’t always come easily to adults or kids. But it helps if you practice together. Here are four ways you and your child can work on projecting calm in a heated moment.

1. Do a self-check.

Be aware of your facial expressions and tone of voice. Ask yourself: “How am I responding? What does my body show?” Encourage your child to do the same. 

2. Practice deep breathing.

Breathing exercises can help to bring the body to a calmer place. Together with your child, try counting backwards from 20.  

3. Adjust body language.

Parents and kids often show tension in their faces when frustrated or stressed. Loosening your jaw and relaxing your shoulders can make a big difference. 

4. Use a mantra. 

A mantra is a short phrase or even a single word that you repeat over and over. Mantras can help shift your focus from what’s upsetting you to the positive phrase you’re saying.

Here are some examples of mantras:

  • “I control my actions.” 
  • “I can think calmly and be calm.”
  • “I can stay calm. I can stay focused. I can stay patient.” 

Want more strategies to help with challenging behavior? Listen to What Now? A Parent’s Guide to Tantrums and Meltdowns. And download Wunder by Understood, a free app with exercises that can help you manage your child’s outbursts, track your progress, and get personalized tips along the way.

Share