How to calm upset toddler

The wails of a toddler in distress ricochets off the walls. I glance at the mother, who yanks her crying toddler by the arm, ignoring her wails. The toddler drags behind her, screaming her protest.

The mother stops. Towering over the child she speaks sharply, wagging her finger in the child’s face. Then she marches on, with sobbing child in tow.

We’ve all had parenting moments we’re not proud of. But what can help us do differently? Here are some thoughts for stressed parents on what to do when your toddler acts out. We can handle a child’s challenging behaviour more helpfully when we have  insights about how the human brain develops. If you are facing a toddler upset here are ten tips for responsive parenting to calm your child and recreate connection.

I hope you’ll keep reading, even if you have older children, because if we all knew what toddlers need to thrive we’d create environments for:

– happier, healthier children

– children who will be more successful as adults

– a happier, healthier generation.

Understanding A Toddler Upset:

  ✓  Your toddler’s brain is still “under construction”

This means the toddler cannot reason like an adult. She doesn’t have a concept of time. She doesn’t understand that you have deadlines to keep or chores to complete. Trying to explain your agenda to her when she’s demanding won’t help. Rather, focus on connecting with her.

  ✓ When your toddler’s upset, she’s emotionally flooded, so she can’t reason

The ‘fight or flight’ part of her brain has now been triggered. She’s not reasoning – so trying to logically explain things to her is only likely to increase her frustration – and yours. First she needs your connection and sympathetic understanding.

  ✓ The young child cannot self-regulate

In other words, she is physically not able to calm herself down. She might cry to a point of exhaustion and then stop – and that’s very different from the child being calmed. When a child’s experience is ignored until she ‘gives up’, her exhausted body is still overloaded with nasty cortisol! Leaving your baby to cry without giving comfort and attention is tantamount to leaving her in a closed room with toxic paint fumes.[i]

So let’s look at what a parent can do to calm an upset toddler.

Toddler Upset – Ten Tips On How To Calm Your Child:

1. Stay emotionally connected to your child

When she’s upset she’s trying to let you know she needs your support. At times when you child is most challenging tile is when she most probably most needs your love and support.

At these times the young child is emotionally overwhelmed and needs your support to calm her down.

2. Choose to be calm

Get down to her eye level and make eye contact (if she will) with a ‘soft gaze’.Your toddler physically can’t calm herself down when she’s upset – she can’t “self regulate”.  Her immature nervous system relies on an adult to calm her. So if you choose to calm yourself, it will help to calm her. Your soft gaze will do far more to calm her than any amount of ‘reasoning’  words.

3. Remember her behaviour is about her – your response is about you

There’s already one immature person having a meltdown. Your job is to remain the calm, collected adult who, rather than reacting, chooses to respond helpfully.

4. Focus on your breathing

When you steady your breathing your steady your thoughts.Remind yourself this is your young child who is distressed and needing support.

If you have a key phrase that reminds you of the sort of parent you choose to be,  say this to yourself:  for example: ‘calm’, ‘being the adult’, ‘reassure’.

Your steady breathing will also help to steady your child’s breathing.

5. Send a ‘CONNECT’ message through your tone of voice/ body language and your facial expression

Your child senses your motivation far more strongly than she can hear the words you are using. (When you most want to say’ Listen to me’ is when  she’s emotionally flooded and it’s impossible for her to listen! In upset times your child’s brain can’t make sense of your words. First she needs to connect with you.

She will learn how to deal with stressful times by what you model.

6. Focus on seeing the situation through her eyes, rather than trying to explain yours

See life from her perspective.

Reflect the same words/ energy / simple phrases that she does.

Focus your attention on connecting with her. It’s helpful to imagine ahead of time, before an upset, how  you might respond in a similar scenario. Here’s how I would choose to respond:

Child: ‘I want the toy.’

Mother: ‘You want the toy.’

Child: ‘I want it!’

Mother: ‘You really want it.’

7. Don’t give her what she’s demanding – just acknowledge what she wants

Just because she “wants” the toy, doesn’t mean she has to have it.  But you can still acknowledge her experience. (Think of when you say something like, “I’d love that Porsche.” Just because you express the wish, doesn’t mean you need it explained to you why you can’t have it! ) What anyone of us wants is for someone to acknowledge our experience. So, you can empathetically respond, “You’d love that toy”  – but it doesn’t;t mean you have to buy it!

8. If she uses attacking words, like ‘Silly Mummy’ reflect the emotion below her words

For example, you might respond,  ‘You’re cross with me.’

9. Give words for your child’s emotions

When we acknowledge emotions, over time your child will learn to ‘name, claim and tame’ her emotions. As we model this, our children will be more able to use reason to deal with emotional upsets – to ‘find words (left brain activation) for strong feelings (right brain activation) instead of moving into primitive discharge of these feelings. (as in tantrum).’[ii]

10. It’s okay for your child to cry

Don’t try to stop the tears, just be compassionately present and ready to connect when your child is ready to do so.When we cry when we’re upset, the tears are chemically different to the tears we cry when we’re peeling an onion. Our ‘upset tears’ contain stress hormones. So having a ‘good cry’ / ‘crying it all out’ makes sense.

How to Deal with Toddler TantrumWhy Connecting Matters

When you see an upset toddler it’s helpful to remember that her brain and nervous system are still ‘under construction’. She is reliant on you as parent (or carer) to calm and regulate the strong emotions that are storming her young body. Her crying is trying to communicate to you that she’s especially needing your support right now. She needs you  to ‘listen to her behaviour’ ; for more about this, see my blog  “My toddler screams when her 4 year old sister ‘bugs’ her!”

Your young child is not out to make your life difficult – she’s doing the best she can.

The bottom line is babies and toddlers need caring, connected parents, particularly in times of emotional stress.

But how to be the calm, connected parent you want to be in times of stress? You can discover more with the three signpost to Mindful Parenting in my new Parenting book, ‘BEHAVE – What To Do When Your Child Won’t’.  And if you’re a parent who is really keen to discover the practical tools to  a more mindful way of Parenting, you’ll want to sign up now for start-when-good-for-you, return-as-often as-you-wish Online Parenting course.

I recommend Margot Sunderland’s book ‘What Every Parent Needs to Know’. It’s the type of book that you’ll frequently dip into, with chapters on issues such as sleep and bedtimes, behaviour issues, crying and separation. It’s filled with a wealth of knowledge and practical advice, based on scientific fact, about what children need to thrive.

[i] Sunderland Margot at Play Therapy conference in Dublin 2008

[ii] Sunderland Margot ‘The Science of Parenting ‘2006 Dorling Kindersley Limited. London, p. 231

Last edited October 13th 2019

I know Iʼm generalising here – and hats off to all the dads who have got a handle on whatʼs needed with raising a toddler. Hereʼs a young dad doing the best he can, but at times heʼs not meeting the toddlerʼs needs. Mums often sense this and feel frustrated:

ʻDo I let them go off together and sort it out – but what about my baby?ʼ

Very often Dads have had very little preparation for taking on Parenthood. So how would he know whatʼs needed? Hereʼs a few suggestions that can pave the way to more involved and happier fathering.

1. Involve Dad from the beginning. As one Dad said, concerning the care of their baby, ʻI felt as useless as an ashtray on a  motorbike.ʼ Why would you want to be involved if your efforts were being blown away in the wind!

2. Appreciate his help. Getting the practical stuff done can take a lot of pressure off you. But heʼs not going to do it YOUR way. Give appreciation not criticism if you want his support.

3. Give him insights / tips without inferring that heʼs ʻwrongʼ. Avoid language like ʻThe right way to do this is…ʼ Because when you say that, itʼs giving the message, ʻYouʼre doing it WRONG.ʼ None of us like to be wrong – and specially not if youʼre male. Youʼre more likely to get support from Dad by using ʻhelpfulʼ language: ʻWhat I find helpful is …ʼ Also avoid ʻshouldʼ. Males hate being told what to do. Rephrase as ʻcouldʼ (Thereʼs a choice there – and he can decide). e.g. Rather than ʻYou should give him toys to play with.ʼ Try saying ʻYou could try giving him toys to play with.ʼ

4. Discuss with him that he has a vital role in creating calm family. Sometimes being an ‘out-to-work mum’ or  ʻMum-on-Duty-24/7ʼ can feel overwhelming. You get stressed and thatʼs contagious to babies and young children. The stressed child cries more and is more likely to be ill, so you become more stressed, so the little one becomes more stressed, and downward it spirals. Dad need to know itʼs a scientific fact that one of the most helpful things he can do for his young child is to be a calming factor in Mumʼs life. If youʼre calm, itʼll be easier to calm the child. P.S. Discuss this when YOU are calm!

5. Share key neuroscience facts that help us know whatʼs needed for young children to thrive. Dad likes provable facts – not ʻfluffyʼ talk. ʻOh poor little miteʼ isnʼt likely to impress Dad. But when he has some biological insight, heʼll have facts that will be key to him in how to parent in way that meets your childʼs needs.

FACT: The young childʼs brain is still under construction. So he does not reason like an adult. When he throws the phone because heʼs upset the toddler canʼt understand that it costs a lot of money and needs to be treated carefully. Mobile phones are not toys. Thatʼs why toddlerʼs toys are built of pretty much indestructible materials. The toddler is not trying ʻto get the best of you’ or ʻget his own backʼ. Thatʼs adult thinking that the young child isnʼt yet capable of. The toddler is trying to let you know his needs arenʼt being met.

Rather ask: ʻWhat might this behaviour be trying to tell me?ʼ

Because his brain is still in formation he canʼt self soothe.

When the toddlerʼs upset he needs to feel a parentʼs body calmly holding him. He needs to hear his name spoken repeatedly and calmly. He needs words of reassurance.

When young children get the loving reassurance they need, they build strong, healthy brains that will be able to cope with stressful situations in adult life.

6. Dads are not Mums. He wonʼt do it your way. Mums tend to do the ʻcuddle and reassureʼ. Dads often naturally do theʼ rough and tumbleʼ and this is a healthy and necessary part of the toddlerʼs brain stimulation. Sometimes the excitement will go too far and end in tears. If youʼve already shared the ʻbrain factsʼ, trust him to figure out whatʼs needed.

Dad can be the strongest ally you have in child raising.

What are you doing to encourage your allyʼs support?

P.S. Even if youʼre separated – I invite you to think about what parts of this article can guide you to successful co-parenting.

copyright © Val Mullally 2012


Last edited June 07th 2012

Receiving Gifts

Happy Valentines!  Here’s a summary of the Parenting tweets I’ve shared through the day.

* Some children experience love particularly through Receiving Gifts.

* We can be mistaken that the child whose primary love language is Receiving Gifts is materialistic / greedy   …

* … but it’s not so much about the value of the present.  It’s ‘You thought of me when we were apart.’

* So the gift of a daisy / a pretty pebble can be of as much value to the child as an expensive item.

* Dads: Valentines is a great opportunity to also affirm your daughters of your love.

* Dads:  Your daughter is unlikely to behave like a tramp if she KNOWs she’s your princess.

* Children thrive on knowing that Mum is Number One in Dad’s life.

* One of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is a stable loving adult relationship. To run smoothly relationships need maintenance – like vehicles.


* Book Val Mullally as your guest speaker to discover insights & helpful tools to create more enjoyable & fulfilling family life.

* Valentines is about meeting your partner’s love needs. Perhaps reflect on the 5 love languages to ID what makes ur partner feel loved.

* Find out more about  key elements of loving family relationship:

Quality Time

Words of Affirmation

Acts of Kindness

Physical Touch



Last edited February 14th 2012

Christmas - What Really Matters

Dear Santa

Great to see children thinking about what will make other people happy at Christmas. I know we’ll be flat-out with preparing the sleigh from Christmas Eve, so any final seasonal thoughts for Parents?



Dear  Parents

Percy Postelf, Mrs Claus and I all agree that Mark’s dad will appreciate a present that’s been carefully chosen. We started talking about the madness of Christmas shopping.

Remember the lyric ‘The fox went out on a windy night’.

As parents, you know that a fox in the hen coop can go on an unsatiated killing spree.

I sometimes think children can be a little like that when there’s an overabundance – ripping through everything without taking time to savour anything.

Maybe this festive season feels like a crisis time for some.

Here are two key thoughts  that might be helpful:

1) Somewhere I read that the Japanese word for ‘crisis’ also means ‘opportunity’.

What would happen if we saw our current situation as an opportunity?

What if we all asked ourselves:

‘What’s the opportunity for our family in the current crisis we’re experiencing?’

2)  ‘Less is more’ and ‘slow’ have become global movements. Reflect on how this might be true for your family this Christmas.

Let’s choose “less presents and more presence”.

“Happiness does not come from having more, it comes from loving what you have.”

If you’ve enjoyed these posts you’ll want Val Mullally’s parenting book Behave – What To Do When Your Child Won’t 

BEHAVEbook - treat yourself this Christmas

Enjoying other people’s pleasure at receiving gifts, is one way our children may benefit when there’s less.

Christmas is the time for recognising what really matters in life.

Despite challenging circumstances, may this be a wonder-full and joy-full Christ-mas for each and every family.

Love and God bless to everyone.     Christmas - what really matters

Santa, Mrs Claus and PercyPostElf

P.S. To see my other Christmas letters:

Day 1  What to do with Children’s ‘Great Expectations’?

Day 2  Christmas Gifts Without a Huge Expense

Day 3  Dealing with Disappointment

Day 4  Christmas Surprises

Day 5  Three Key Questions Regarding Purchases

Day 6  No Money This Christmas

Day 7  Christmas is for Giving

Day 8 When Sad or Bad Things Happen

Day 9  When Grown Ups Fight

Day 10 Making Magical Moments at Christmass

Day 11 Can’t Forgive at Christmas 










Last edited December 07th 2018

Hard to Forgive at Christmas

Choose to Forgive this Christmas

Dear Santa

Here’s another letter from Daniel. So glad his parents are sorting things out.  (Maybe they read your letter about ‘When Grown Ups Fight’!)

It makes sense that it’s hard to forgive, even at Christmas, when someone has deeply hurt you. Many people are stuck in a place of anger/unforgiveness regarding an ex, their own parent, someone else, perhaps they are struggling to forgive another group of people who have injured those we love. And sometimes it’s ourselves that we find hard to forgive. 

What would you like to say to parents who find it hard to forgive?



Dear PercyPostElf

It makes sense that when people hurt us, it’s hard to forgive.

What we often overlook is the cost of unforgiveness –  to our physical and emotional health but we also often forget the huge price that unforgiveness can cost our children too.

Let me share with you an African tale on how to catch a monkey.

Find a tree with a very small hole in the trunk.  Take a handful of peanuts and while the monkey is watching you, push the peanuts into the hole in the tree. Now move away and wait. The monkey will soon come for the peanuts. But when he puts his hand into the hole and seizes the peanuts, his fist is now too big to get out the hole. He doesn’t want to let go the peanuts – so he’s stuck. Now you can catch your monkey!

That’s what happens to us when we hold onto unforgiveness. It’s hard to forgive because we think we’re punishing the person who hurt us but actually, we are keeping ourselves stuck in one place. Sometimes we avoid forgiveness because we don’t want reconciliation with a particular person or situation. But forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same thing. We can choose to forgive, even if reconciliation isn’t desirable or advisable.

Forgiveness is choosing to let go of the ‘peanuts’ of anger and bitterness. These uncomfortable feelings are emotional termites that eat away our family’s happiness if we don’t deal with them.

‘Peace on Earth’ doesn’t just happen. Peace happens one relationship at a time. Peace happens when people choose to be peace-makers. And sometimes part of peace-making is forgiving.

Did you know that our way of living is hugely influenced by the thoughts of the past four generations and that the thoughts we think will affect the next four generations? This Christmas let’s consciously choose the emotional legacy we leave to our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great, great-grandchildren.

It can be helpful to take time to reflect:

‘Is there a situation where I  am finding it hard to forgive?’

‘On a scale of 0-10 what example of forgiveness am I modelling to my children?’ (0 equals holding tightly to bitter, angry and unforgiving thoughts  and 10 being  free of those).

This Christmas I ask parents to get the help needed to let go of unforgiveness – for their children’s sake as well as their own.

The word ‘forgiving’ is actually two words.  What do I choose to give: to myself / my loved ones / that other person?

Christmas is a time a time for giving and for for-giving.

Reconciliation is not always advisable but we can choose to let go of our bitterness or anger and move forward.

Now it’s over to you – how will you choose to be a peace-maker this festive season?

Choose to forgive this Christmas



P.S.  Check in tomorrow for  my final letter this year.  After that, Rudolph and I will busy with present deliveries.

P.P.S. Here are my other letters:

Day 1  What to do with Children’s ‘Great Expectations’?

Day 2  ‘Need’ or ‘Want’

Day 3  Dealing with Disappointment

Day 4  Christmas Surprises

Day 5  Three Key Questions Regarding Purchases

Day 6  No Money This Christmas

Day 7  Christmas is for Giving

Day 8 When Sad or Bad Things Happen

Day 9  When Grown Ups Fight

Day 10 An Attitude of Gratitude

Day 12 Christmas – What Really Matters







Last edited December 07th 2018


When parents fight at Christmas

Dear Santa

There are many children who could have written this. Some of their parents are together – and fighting. Some are divorced parents, or separated – and fighting. What could you say this Christmas that might be helpful for families that don’t get along together?



Dear PercyPostElf

Yes, grown-ups fighting is one of the sad things that sometimes happens at Christmas. Sometimes it’s a heartbreak story, and other times it’s those little irritations when families don’t get along together. Here are some helpful tips when there’s the risk of adult conflict over the festive season. But first and foremost I encourage parents to ask themselves: ‘Is home a SAFE PLACE for my child?’

1. Make home a safe place

You’d do anything to protect your children – right?  But where do your children turn for safety if you turn into the raging tiger? You’re not thinking about it at the time – but when you start snarling and roaring at your ex/partner/spouse you become someone who is unsafe to be around.  No matter how angry you’re feeling, remember that your reaction can be upsetting for the children. It’s also never okay for your children to experience you being abused. If you or your children are in physical or psychological danger please get help immediately. Your children (and you!) deserve a home that is a safe place.

2. When temperatures rise, take a breather to cool down

When something happens that makes us feel unsafe, the survival instinct is triggered. The brain puts all its energy into ‘fight, flight or freeze’, so the thinking part of the brain temporarily ‘shuts down’. This means that when you’re in ‘fight’ mode you’re not thinking/reasoning. You may be trying to get the other person to ‘see reason’ – but neither of you is able to do this while you are upset. If you want to have a different outcome take a breather until you’ve all calmed down.

3. Your rising sense of anger is an indication you need change

But choose to listen to what your anger is telling you and figure out what’s helpful before your anger boils over into an uncontrolled rage. When someone’s pushing your buttons, take action to bring the change that’s needed whilst you’re still calm enough to think.  Here are a few thoughts:

* Recognise: ‘Their behaviour is about them, my response is about me.’

* Sometimes what can be helpful is to use lighthearted humour – when you respond in a way that they don’t expect, it usually changes the whole game plan, providing you all laugh with each other (not at each other!)

* We can choose to deal with upsetting incidents without resorting to aggressive words or actions.

What else can help parents to stop the fighting?

For more insights on how to behave (children and parents!) in a way that’s going to create connection, I recommend popping Val Mullally’s Parenting book, ‘BEHAVE -What Do When Your Child Won’t’ into your own Christmas stocking.

The Parenting Book you want in your christmas stocking!

* Remember that people who have already ‘flipped the lid’ or who have been drinking excessively have moved past reasoning. Don’t try to reason with an un-reasoning person. Just do what’s needed to calm the situation. Focus on keeping yourself and your children safe (emotionally as well as physically).

* Sometimes the only thing you can change is your own attitude. You don’t have to ‘bite the anger hook.’ At one point Val created a poster for herself with fish swimming past a baited hook and the words: ‘Swim on by.’

No-one ‘makes you angry’. It’s your choice.

Percy, sometimes families don’t get along, but if even one person chooses to do differently there can be a different outcome.

Of course every couple has a tiff sometimes, but what matters is not to let it get out of hand.

Before Parents end up on the slippery slope of anger, I wish they’d ask themselves:

‘Am I ensuring  home is a safe emotional space for my child?’  

When Parents fight at Christmas

May it be a peace-full Christmas.

Love Santa

Day 1   What to do with Children’s ‘Great Expectations’?

Day 2  ‘Need’ or ‘Want’

Day 3  Dealing with Disappointment

Day 4  Christmas Surprises

Day 5  Three Key Questions Regarding Purchases

Day 6  No Money This Christmas

Day 7  Christmas is for Giving

Day 8 When Sad or Bad Things Happen

Day 10 An Attitude of Gratitude

Day 11 Can’t Forgive

Day 12 Christmas – What Really Matters














Last edited December 07th 2018

If you’re anything like I was when my children were young  – those words filled me with anxiety.

I needed my child to be happy at school so that I could feel okay about it.

So how to respond in a way that’s actually helpful?

It’s so easy to get caught up in our own anxiety that our response is actually about trying to calm our own anxiety – rather than responding to him.

Here’s some of the tactics we parents use in our attempt for ‘smooth entry’.

Parent: Unhelpful Tactic 1

We try to do is convince him he thinks /feels otherwise.

‘Of course you want to go to school – you love school.’

Parent Unhelpful Tactic 2

Change the subject.

‘Oh, look.  There’s Johnny.  Let’s go to the park together.’

Parent Unhelpful Tactic 3


‘Your sister loves school.’

Parent Unhelpful Tactic 4

Try to reason.

‘You’ll be home in just a few hours.’

‘But last week you said you really wanted to go to school.’ (Maybe he did – but that was last week –not now!)

Parent  Unhelpful Tactic 5


‘Be a good boy and go to school and I’ll buy you an ice-cream on the way home.’

Parent Unhelpful Tactic 6


‘Big boys all go to school.’

These tactics aren’t helpful because:

* Your child’s not feeling heard or ‘feeling felt’.

(When his emotions aren’t calmed, he won’t be able to figure out how he can handle the challenge).

* When he experiences his parents ignoring what he’s experiencing, over time he might begin to doubt or ignore his own inner experiences /  thoughts and feelings.

* If he can’t share these worrying emotions with you because you ignore / divert him then  he might  start thinking that he can’t share  other concerns him with you.

* He might feel resentful towards a sibling (just because she likes school, why should that mean he does?)

* And if he figures that bribes get him rewards, you’re creating a situation where he’s more likely to complain about more things. (‘Mentality: ‘The more I complain the more ice-creams I get!’)

* Shaming a child might get the immediate result you want, but it means he’ll just be stifling his worries, rather than learning he’s got a supportive mum / dad who will listen and help him figure out what’s needed.

So what can be helpful?

* Be aware that, even if you’ve been careful about what you say, your child ‘reads’ you – your body language, tone of voice, muscle tension, facial expression. If he senses you’re tense/ worried/ anxious/ don’t want to ‘let your baby go’  – he’ll cooperate with you – and give you the behaviour that you are subconsciously  ‘asking him for’. This means making sure you’re settled and calm about the situation. (And sometimes one parent copes better at the school gate than the other parent – try to plan it that way if possible).

* Respond to what your child’s experiencing – not to your own needs.  It’s so easy for us to so want for it to be okay, that we’re trying to soothe him for our own sake, rather than being tuned in to what’s actually helpful for him.

* Respond to his words.‘ So you don’t think you want to go to school today. Tell me more.’ Often just having a chance to talk about it, knowing someone’s really listening, may be all he needs to do. And maybe there IS something that’s not okay, that he’ll need your support to sort out.

* Empathise. Notice his body language and facial expression as well as his words. Try to ‘get into his skin’ and feel what he’s feeling. Naming the emotion helps him to ‘name’, ‘claim’ and ‘tame’ the emotion.

‘You’re feeling sad/ worried about going to school?’ If you name the emotion, he’s more likely to have a sense that his experience is normal / understandable to others and this makes it easier for him to deal with overwhelming emotions.  He’s more likely to calm down when he ‘feels felt’.

Our culture tends to give a message ‘big boys don’t cry’ but our tears when we are upset are chemically different to the tears we cry when we peel an onion. Our ‘upset tears’ contain stress hormones – so when we’ve ‘had a good cry’, we feel better / more able to cope. Having said that, there’s a time  (Like going into the school gate) when tears most probably aren’t going to be helpful. Time to be listened to beforehand can reduce risk of tears at the gate.And avoid expressions like ‘Don’t cry.’ (All he’ll hear is ‘Cry’!)

Even young children can learn to use focusing on their breath to contain themselves. (Great at the dentist or doctor’s) Remind him of something that will be encouraging or reassuring. (‘I’ll be right here to meet you at home time.’)

* Some children battle to be away from the parent. Some token object to ‘keep safe for me’ or ‘so that you know I’m thinking of you’ that he can tuck into his pocket can give him something tangible to feel and reassure himself at times when he might need to calm himself during the day.

* Giving a choice can be helpful.  Perhaps as you get close to the school your child becomes increasingly clingy. ‘Would you like me to walk to the classroom door with you or do you want to say goodbye in the hall?’ Not going to school isn’t being offered as an option – but, by making a choice, your child doesn’t feel powerless in the situation

*  Daily transition times – home to school – can be stressful. Do what you can to minimize stress, like having everything ready beforehand, know where the car keys are, leaving five minutes extra early. A calm start to the day can make all the difference.

*  Keeping still (comparatively) and concentrating and cooperating all morning is stressful for young children. Plan for a healthy breakfast to start the day and an opportunity to work off a bit of energy. (Can you walk to school?)  Likewise, time to work off energy on returning home is needed.

In my years as school teacher/ principal I found that Monday morning blues after the first weekend is very common, even with some children who started school happily for the first few days. Forewarned is forearmed.  Be extra aware of what might be needed after the weekend so that you can respond helpfully before meltdown happens!

I’d love to hear your experiences.

Happy schooling!



Last edited September 03rd 2012

We watch the news and wonder how an educated country like England can erupt into such chaos.

What’s it all about?

They might have captured images on CCTV that will lead to arrests – and then what?

It’s like a doctor who treats only the symptoms without dealing with the root cause of the dis-ease.

It’s no good treating dysentery without creating clean water supplies and proper sanitation.

So what’s needed to clean up the current conflict in Britain?


If all conflict is a protest at the disconnection, what’s the disconnection and how can it be repaired?

Disconnection from self?

(Ironically, if regular life for a young man feels like ‘walking dead’ – can you imagine the sense of ‘aliveness’ that being involved in this type of trouble can arouse?)

Every image I saw last night of the violence was of young males.

Perhaps we’ve deprived them of environments where they can test their strengths and learn new skills – that they’re seeking some way of reconnecting with the masculine?

What does a healthy young male with testosterone pumping in his veins do, if he’s not given healthy channels of outlet?

Today is the eighteenth birthday of a young friend. There are three sons in the family, local farming lads – strong, talented, intelligent and kind, with two parents committed to their healthy upbringing.

I cannot even imagine these young men being involved in this sort of terrorizing behaviour and vandalism.      

They’re being given the environment for their masculine energy to be something they’re proud of – and something that contributes to community.

So in the areas where young men are not so fortunate, where are the ruptures in connection?

Disconnection from a sense of what makes life meaningful?

Disconnection from a caring, connected  community?

Disconnection from family?

And in particular, perhaps disconnection from healthy masculine role models?

In South Africa a number of years ago, the rangers in one of the large Game reserves were finding mutilated rhino. The creatures were so horribly damaged that the first thought was that this horrific vandalism had been done by poachers. Then they realized that this was not the cause, as the valuable horns had not been removed.

They discovered that the chaos had been caused by marauding ‘teenage’ elephant bulls. Over the previous years, the senior males in the herd had been eliminated by the rangers, as a means of population control. The result was that without the ‘big guys’ to model appropriate behaviour and keep the discipline, the young males went wild.

It’s an interesting tale to reflect upon at this time.

I’m not in any way condoning the behaviour –but all behaviour makes sense.

In my work as a Parent Coach I have repeatedly found that parents will book sessions to see me because of a ‘problem child’ and they are feeling at a loss as how to cope with the behaviour.

As the sessions progress, the issues below the surface begin to emerge. As parents discover how to meaningfully communicate and deal with what’s really causing the dis-ease, the child’s challenging behaviour invariably melts away. It’s not so much that problems are solved – but that they dissolve, once the parents begin to implement change that creates more enjoyable and fulfilling family life for everyone (parents included!)

The interesting thing is that, in retrospect, the parents can see that the challenging behaviour has proved to be a gift – so that they as parents could figure out what really matters and what they are going to do about it to create the home they really want.

An environment for young people to thrive.

The family is the building block for society.

When we create healthy family, we create healthy society.

This isn’t just parents’ responsibility – but starting where we are is the best place to start.

We can easily point the finger at these perpetrators – but it’s likely that such anti-social behaviour will continue to break out, like dysentery, unless we deal with the root problems.

African proverb:

“If young men aren’t initiated into the village, they will burn it down just to feel its warmth.”
(Tweeted by  @alantlwilson Bishop Alan Wilson)




Last edited July 14th 2012

How much is too much?

But Is our hard earned cash being well spent?

What’s going to really build more happiness in our homes?

One year I remember there being only one gift  for me under the tree.  One fairly large box – what could it be? When the moment of paper-ripping arrived I dicovered – a red suitcase!

We had a holiday coming up – but a suitcase!

‘Open it,’ my mother urged.

Lifting the lid I discovered a trove of small surprises.  The unexpected , the interesting can be more fun than the ‘must-have- of the-year.’

We want our children to have what we never had.

But what about thinking about what we want them to have that we did have?

Fun? Time together? Sharing? Caring?

Family or community ritual  and occasions that remind us what the season is really about?

Walks or activities together outdoors?

It’s more important to give our children experiences than things.

So this festive season,  let’s ask,  ‘How do we create the memories we’ll savour?’

Last edited December 17th 2010

When Emotions Get Heated

Imagine being a fly on the wall observing your own parenting.

You might figure:

‘Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’ (Albert Einstein)

You recognise that there are repeating patterns of behaviour in your family, that aren’t helpful.

You want to choose a different way  – to respond rather than react.

You know you’re the only one you can actually change.

So, the next time you have an upset with your … (Click here for full article)

Last edited December 14th 2010