Parenting amid morning meltdowns: a PSA courtesy of a six year old

This morning was a mix of easy going and rough — that probably sounds pretty typical to you if you have young children.  One minute all things are going along just hunky-dory, and the next minute, you are in the middle of a catastrophic meltdown, often clueless about the origin.

That’s what our morning was like. We woke up with smiles, and five minutes later, there was a fight about socks. We got over that and went about the morning, more smiles and giggles and no fighting about breakfast. Then, another breakdown, with tears and raised voice (kiddo, not mom) about a half of a croissant I was packing in my lunch.  While the alarm of concern was raised at the first meltdown, now I really knew something was up. 

I got down at her level and here’s how that went:

Me: honey, it seems like you are having a tough morning and having a lot of feelings right now. Do you want to tell me how you are feeling?
Kiddo: No!
Me: Ok, well, do you want to tell me why you don’t want me to have that croissant?
Kiddo: No!
Me: All right, well, I’m right here if you want to tell me about what is making you have tears this morning.
Kiddo: It’s just that sometimes big kids and big people forget how hard kid life is.
Me: Oh, honey, I know. You are right. Sometimes we do forget how hard kid life is. That must be really frustrating for you.
Kiddo: It is because it makes it harder and harder and harder.
Me: I’m sorry that my forgetting how hard kid life can be is making it harder for you. What can I do to help make kid life be a little easier right now?
Kiddo: Can I maybe just have a hug?
Me: Absolutely. Let’s hug.

And we hugged. And then she ran off to put her shoes on. And I sort of stood there amazed, not really sure all of what just happened but realizing this was a moment of breakthrough.

It was also a moment that reminded me that when our kiddos are melting down, freaking out, and crying…those big emotions are coming from someplace BUT they may not be coming from a place they even are aware of or can articulate. That doesn’t make those feelings any less real.  It doesn’t make those feelings any less challenging to get through – for both the parent and the child.

children get frustrated too

Indeed, according to The Child Mind Institute, “tantrums and meltdowns are among the biggest challenges of parenting. They’re hard to understand, hard to prevent, and even harder to respond to effectively when they’re happening.” In the moment, especially when in any sort of time crunch (ahem, like morning-we-have-to-get-out-the-door-now-or-we’ll-be-late situations, remaining calm and not matching the emotional dis-regulation of the child can be especially challenging for parents (speaking from experience, here).

As parents we are reminded often that we are the best examples for our children and most parents have had the experience of realizing that their child is watching – at all times. This is true when they are in these heightened emotional moments as well. When our children are struggling emotionally, they are watching how we are handling and regulating our emotions – they are looking for us to be there for them, but also paying attention to how we are there for them. According to Tamsen Firestone, Editor-and-Chief of PsychAlive, “the child having a temper tantrum or meltdown experiences the entire world as being overwhelmed by the emotions that she is feeling. By showing the child that you are not only not overwhelmed, but not threatened or upset by these emotions, you are offering your child a way out of a state that she perceives as inescapable.”

As I stood there pondering our morning interaction and continuing to put together her school bag for the day, admittedly already running a bit behind schedule, I quickly reflected that this morning could have gone so differently, could have ended with us both in tears, frustrated, and heading off to our day apart angry and upset. By reminding myself to remain calm, by getting down to her level, and by giving her the opportunity to share with me her struggles, without judgment, shame, or frustration, we were instead moving through those hard and emotional moments and leaving our house with smiles. As I zipped up her backpack, she came trouncing back in (still with only one shoe on – #breathe #babysteps) and gave me another big side-hug before skipping back into the living room to finish with her shoes.

I wish I could say that all challenging mornings would end like this. I know they won’t, despite my best intentions — but this one did. So there’s that.

And truth be told friends, I have NO idea what really set her off. But that doesn’t really matter, does it?  All that matters in this instance was that she was struggling and that she felt heard and loved and supported. 

Miller, Caroline, and Child Mind Institute. “Why Do Kids Have Tantrums and Meltdowns?” Child Mind Institute, Child Mind Institute,

April, Elissa, et al. “What to Do About Kid’s Tantrums and Emotional Meltdowns.” PsychAlive, 2 Nov. 2013,

"Our Deepest Fear…"

I absolutely did NOT want to work out today.

I wanted to hit snooze. I actually didn’t feel like doing much of anything today. I love my job, but it was also one of those days where I did not want to go to work. I was feeling overwhelmed with it all – “all the things” that I had to get done, that were not going to get done even though they are perpetually on my to-do list, the struggle with the kiddo in the morning, the general “ugh” of it all.

I was feeling woefully inadequate in all areas of my life: my family, my physical health, my mental health, my career, my not-happening-novel-writing, my looming deadlines for blog posts and essays, my consulting work…Yeah, today I was just like “nope, not today…”

Yep, even happy, chipper, positive me has mornings likes this.

Today was one of them. 

Day 17 of Whole30. Day whatever of the school year. Yeah, I was just tired. 

But I got up. 

Begrudgingly, but I did. 

And I will admit, I felt better afterwards. Not 100% better. Not immediately. But better. And my day took a little turn when my attitude about my day did. All those feelings, those didn’t just disappear, but I was more reflective about where they were coming from, more able to acknowledge the space I was in.  

“It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us.” 

Working out does help me feel grounded and centered and gives me energy…and even though I know this, there are mornings like today, especially because honestly I’m just newly back into this routine I love so much (and if I’m being really honest, my routine sucks and is a struggle with this new job and all that, but I’m trying…).

And, more honesty: I’m not anything close to what anyone would call a “prima ballerina” but I felt strong this morning, and even a little graceful in fact. So, there’s that too. 

As I felt better, as was able to reflect on my response to my morning, I realized I was, yet again, putting all the pressures of everyone else on myself. I was leveling unknown expectations about who and what I was supposed to do or accomplish against all the work – the really damn good work, I might add – that I am doing on a daily basis.

And in those moments of reflection and realization, I was reminded of these words that poet Marianne Williamson wrote: 

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. 

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. 

It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us. 

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you NOT to be?”

Her words are a great reminder, I think, don’t you?

Look for the little things…they can be BIG.

Can we talk for a minute about these three little things?   Two are literal ‘things’ and one is a symbolic ‘thing’ of something else.

Little thing #1: 

pair of gloves, a wedding ring, topical CBD ointment

I’ll start with the gloves.  I’m training for my very first Century road race.  Ya’ll…that means I’m going to be riding 100 miles in one day.  I’m doing it as my annual Team in Training fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (I’ll hit you up later for donations, I promise!).  Well, as a triathlete, I haven’t ridden long distances like this in the past.  And in trying to transition from swim to bike to run quickly (my version of quickly), I also tried to be as minimalist as possible with “gear.” This has meant I have not ridden with gloves on in the past.

Well, let me tell you — my first 50 mile ride, I learned that was a very, very, very bad idea. 

My poor little hands (and they are little) were so tired.  And actually bruised and blistered and peeling on the palm of my hand!

Before my next 50+ mile ride, I went and got this little pair of gloves. Purple because, well…Team in Training colors… and HOLY SMOKES!  World of difference!  My hands felt so amazing – not sore at all!  And, that little tiny flap in the underside of the two middle fingers?  That’s so you can easily slide them off without “insiding them out” (that’s a thing.).  

Game changer, I tell you.  Rookie mistake not to know this, but now that I do…

Little thing #2:  

This is a two-parter…I’ve been cycling, yes, but I have also been back at lifting and strength training as part of my daily workouts. And I’ve been lifting pretty heavy (ahem, proud of myself here…).  But last week my thumb-area and my wrist were really sore during and after a lifting session.  And, my knees were sort of sore too.  I chalked up the hand to sleeping on it wrong coupled with heavy lifting. And the knees to 1) cycling 50+ miles for a couple weeks in a row and 2) needing to pay closer attention to my lifting form and 3) getting old.  

But after a day, both still hurt.  Like a dull pain. Throbbing sort of, not stabbing…but there.  Always. Painful actually. A little massaging of it didn’t help the hand. And the knees were hurting every time I stood or sit down.  #gettingoldsucks Then I remembered I had this little jar of my topical CBD.  I took a pea size – literally, that small – and rubbed it on my knees and on my hand (one pea size for each area).  I SHIT YOU NOT, within 10 minutes there was NO PAIN.  NONE.  It was gone.  I kept bending my thumb to make sure.  And standing up and sitting down just because – really?  But yes, really?  The pain never came back — gone!

I was totally on board with my new favorite CBD oil before for helping with my insomnia and my migraines and my anxiety…but you better believe, I’m all for this topical now too!

Little thing #3

The ring signifies my husband.  Our marriage. And a silly little thing that really wasn’t so silly to me at all.  On my first really long bike ride, just a third of the way in, I was feeling totally defeated – by hills, by heat, by knowing I was going to miss a few training weeks for our upcoming trip…and when you are cycling, you aren’t having a whole lot of conversations so you are really “in your own head” and I was NOT in a good space in my own head.  At a break, I texted my husband and said “There is NO WAY I can ride 100 miles.”

I had just about convinced myself of this. I was missing golf lessons for the kiddo Saturday mornings.  I was tired of getting up early.  This ride was already painful and I wasn’t even close to the 100 mile mark.  I could put this off and train for a different event…and on and on it went.

If he had texted me back “yeah it sucks” or “just do a different race” or anything really…it would have sealed the deal.

Know what he texted back? 

“Yes you can!”

Those three little words brought me to tears on that corner.  I didn’t believe in myself in that moment, but HE believed in me.  He didn’t even realize the POWER of that response.  And I was reminded in that response that words are powerful and that believing in other people is powerful too.  I wasn’t out there riding because I was going to win this race.  I was out there riding because I am dedicated every year to helping find cures for blood cancers.  And because I do things that are hard a lot — I set a goal and I reach it.  He knows this about me. It’s a thing I do. And he knows this is an important part of who I am….and he believes in me.  Even when I have crazy ideas, that seem impossible, that’s what he does: believes in me. And that little “yes you can” also says a lot about our marriage. And how far we’ve come in a short period of time (haven’t been married like eons or anything) and how we’ve gotten there with consistent and constant work. It’s not about all the big, grand gestures – like gifts or trips or whatevers. It IS about the little bits of big work we do each and every day to create a marriage built on love – and believing in one another. 

All this long-ass post is to say: little things friends.  LITTLE things can make a HUGE difference.  

Don’t just walk around your day looking for the “next big thing”.

Walk through your day taking time to stop and appreciate the little things too.  

Much love,


A little heart(s) can go a long way

I am your run-of-the-mill Pinterest-Fail mama.

No, really.  

I am.

On my daughter’s first birthday I attempted to make an ombre pink floral three-layer cake that I found on Pinterest.

Somewhere a picture of that disaster exists, but my mother and my sister can attest – it. was. a. failure.

Charlotte 1st birthday
first birthday proof

Not to mention the fact that I made it a chocolate cake to find out a few weeks later – our daughter was ALLERGIC to chocolate (she’s fine, and no longer allergic, thank heavens!).

So, yes, I’m the Pinterest-Fail Queen.

And yet, I keep looking.  And trying.  And keep failing.

But this…this my friends, this has been a Pinterest SUCCESS.

Somewhere on Pinterest I saw this idea to put little hearts on your kiddo’s bedroom door starting February 1st, leading up to Valentine’s Day, listing many reasons why you love your kid(s).

I tucked that idea away as something to try and then promptly forgot about it. Until one day I was in the craft store (clearly I’m a glutton for punishment) and saw some pre-cut paper hearts and was reminded of the Pinterest Valentine’s Challenge (what I’m calling it.)

And so I bought those paper hearts and we did this.  

And in a million years I never would have thought I would have loved my decision as much as I have.

It has made my day every morning and, I think, made hers.

Each morning we read the new reason, reaffirming why we love our child (there are SOOOOO many reasons, of course), and then she takes some blue painters tape (gotta preserve the paint), and decides where to put the heart on her bedroom door. 

Before bed each night or before we head off to school (or both), she points to each heart and I re-read it off (she can’t read yet). Sometimes, she just turns to me and smiles.  Others, like for “you give the best hugs” she rushes over to give me one her famous hugs before returning to the door and pointing at the next heart.

So. Many. Feels.

As far as reminders for why she is loved – why, yes, this is amazing. 

As far as knowing that I’m sending her off on her day filled with affirmations of those reasons – real, concrete reasons why we love her – (like, she’s always kind, or she has a great laugh…you know, cute little things she can hold with her) yes, that is amazing too.

But, as far as slowing our morning or evening down and reconnecting — this has been the best thing ever.  

And it has taken NO time and hardly any money, and zero effort — it’s NOT difficult for me to think of reasons why I am in love, over the moon, beyond happy that this kid is ours —— why would I NOT want to share those reasons with her all the time?

Our kiddo knows we love her.  We say it all the time.

But we don’t always take the time to be specific.  And remind her in every moment that we not only love her because she’s our daughter (which we do, unconditionally), but for reasons she might forget, or reasons it is always great to reinforce:

She is kind.  This is true. She’s one of the sweetest little creatures ever.

She is also brave and creative.  Those aren’t things everyone will always notice – and those are qualities we want her to be proud of, to hold tight to, to grow with.

These little hearts became more than a silly little Pinterest craft. They became a way for us to reinforce with our daughter, not just all the reasons why we love her, but reasons why she should be PROUD of who she is, who she is growing into.

So yes, this this little Pinterest idea from some amazingly creative mom (not me) has won my heart (pun intended).  We don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day in our home – we forgo flowers and chocolate and fancy dinners out –  but I will keep doing this every year until our kiddo moves out on her own, and heck, maybe even after that!

Truthfully, she will NEVER get too old for me to list, for 14 days in February, some very real reminders as to why we love her so much.

*and these heart-shaped pancakes on Valentine’s Day morning were an after-thought, a spur of the moment purchase at Paper Source, and were also a sweetly smashing success! #momwin #winning #illtakewhaticanget

Morning Blessings

My precious gift:

You start every day off with a smile and a little made-up melody. This morning is was your rendition of “this little light of mine” with some words changed to fit your world view.  

Do you know, that when you share those with me you help start my day with joy beyond measure?

And you remind me that my job in those early minutes of the morning is to keep that smile on your face and that song in your heart.  

Despite feeling rushed. 

Or cereal spilled on the floor.

Or toothpaste dripped on your clean clothes.

Or not being able to find that matching shoe.

How blessed are we that we get to wake up happy every morning?  

Blessed beyond words, for sure. 

I know that not everyone is that fortunate.  And I know that even when it is difficult, one of the most important things I can do for you every morning is to make sure that a piece of happiness stays with you as you head out the door, into the world…without me by your side.

If I help that happiness stick all morning long, my hope is that it helps you muddle through some of the harder, less happy times, you may face in your day….

(…and my darling, I hope beyond hope you don’t have to face them, but I also know…the world isn’t always a ‘nice’ place…)

As you grow and blossom into this wonderful not-so-tiny human, please know my love for you knows no bounds and is not just reserved for mornings.

I want so much for you in this world.

I want to encourage you and cherish your bold sense of adventure.

I want to travel the world with you.

I want to share in your joy of learning new things.

I want you to know the feeling of an enduring love (like your dad and I have found with each other).

But for now, all I want is to watch you smile and hang on to each of these small new moments one at a time.

For now, I want to make sure every morning starts with happiness.

The rest will come, too quickly perhaps. 

So I will give you happy mornings. 

And cuddles whenever you want them.

And stories before bedtime.

And head-rubs as you fall off to sleep.

And I will let you sleep next to me as long as you like, enjoy your toes curling against my legs, and hold your hand every moment I can.

You see, my sweet, strong, creative, bold girl, I know you are growing – minute by minute, day by day, year by year…and I know that while you will always and forever be my baby, you will only be little for a little while longer.

And yes, you will without a doubt keep growing, but the blessing you give me each morning with your songs will never grow old. 

~ mamaimg_2651

Dear Moms: We are not in competition with each other…

I saw a post earlier about a list/flowchart about the difference between a SAHM and a mama who works outside the home.

My initial thought was “what a load of shite!” Then my other thoughts are – yes, this really is BS.

One of the things I found laughable (I mean, actually laughed out loud at with a bitterness) was that SAHMs have a home-cooked meal ready for dinner each night and working mamas eat take out/fast food.

First, I’m currently a SAHM — but this doesn’t mean I’m also not a WAHM. I have a full time job and work remotely. I also teach 1-2 college classes every 8 weeks AND I am an education consultant and work with teachers and school leaders on their classroom practice. Oh, yeah, I also run my own (tiny but mighty) online fitness business.

So, when I’m at home, I’m not lounging around in yoga pants (except when I’m working out) and pintersting organic quinoa grass-fed beef dishes to “whip up” in a couple hours for dinner, ready and waiting and plated beautifully for my husband when he gets home from a “long day at the office” (aka, his ship) along with his slippers and a glass of wine.

When I’m at home, I’m working my ass off. All damn day.

And if anyone is getting slippers and wine at night, it’s this mama right here!

And, also, when the kiddo is home with me and not at school, I’m working my ass off AND playing with her, exploring with her, crafting with her, teaching her…an when I have to get some work done, finding things for her to do that keep her imagination sparked while I grade, or take a conference call, or plan for a workshop…and it’s a balance I tell ya because I want to have her have things to do so she doesn’t see me working as ignoring her.

That’s hard. I don’t think I do a perfect job at it, but I’m a work in progress.

I love being home with her more than I have ever been. That has been a goal for me and continues to be a goal for me…

BUT, when I worked outside the home full time too – as a high school teacher and then a high school principal, the same rules applied — I worked my ass off.

And I think we eat as much junk food, or not-as-healthy-food now when I’m working from home as we did when I worked outside the house.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this other than to say, can we stop with the crazy-ass comparisons of motherhood – P L E A S E ? ! ? !

I had days when I was working outside the home where I felt like I was CRUSHING life – work, motherhood, marriage, friendships. Then I had days when I was like – OMG, I suck at all of this.

And I have days now, working FROM home, where I feel the exact same way.

Motherhood, whether you work from home, away from home, or something in between…whether you have one kid or five kids…whether you are a single parent, dual-parent, or sometimes solo-parent…motherhood is HARD AF. Yes, some of these things make it harder, others, sometimes, probably don’t.

But there’s not a need to compare. Really. Truly. I believe this.

So, let’s stop.

How about we just all say “hey, moms, I see you being a badass and making mommy-hood work” and “way to go moms, you are rocking it!” and “hey, share that crockpot recipe you just did cuz I’m hungry and out of ideas!” and just go about our days lifting one another up and not, any more, breaking each other down.IMG_1162

Wanna try that?

I do!

Oh, and here’s my mom-win for the day, after one hectic morning and three wardrobe
changes due to spills (for me, not even her!)…kiddo surrounding herself with toys and coloring tools and contentedly playing while I work, coming over occasionally for a hug, a kiss, and to tell me that 7 + 4 equals 11 or some other sum she’s mulling over in her tiny little brain…

Shh….quiet…it might just be working out today…




PS: don’t even get me started on the post that asked mothers to “put on some makeup before school drop off”. Girl, as long as I get my kid there, on time even, with food for lunch, and underwear on, I am not going to take shit from you about if my mascara is a day-old. That. Is. BS.

Lessons in Parenting: The Power of the Parental Response

I’m far from a perfect parent. Far from a perfect human, really…and I learn lessons about parenting pretty much every single hour of every single day. And every time I stop and reflect on a lesson I’ve learned I think: damn, that is the most important thing I’ve learned about parenting ever!

Until the next time, an hour later.

And this happens pretty much daily. So, I’ve learned a lot. And they are all important.

I don’t write about them all, though perhaps I should and maybe someday I will. I do write and share regularly about the journey of parenting, not as an expert, but as one parent learning as she goes and wanting other parents to not feel so alone in any aspect of this crazy wild ride we are all on. So, recently, I was blessed with another learning moment, and I felt compelled to write about this one – another most important lesson I’ve learned about parenting – because I know that this situation could have, and often does go a very different way, and I thought it was important to note, and take stock of, the difference.

So as of this moment, I think the most important lesson I have learned in parenting is how important it is how you respond to situations with your children. Now, this might not be news to anyone else, and truth be told, it isn’t actually earth-shattering new news to me either – but sometimes the reminder, in the moment, is important.

Which brings me to the events leading up to the lesson…

Kiddo was outside finishing up some #oahurocks painting so we could distribute our rocks for other local hikers to find. Dollops of paint on a plate, paper down as a protective canvas. Water for cleaning her brushes. Rocks to paint designs on and hide all over Oahu and, when we move back to the mainland, some of our favorite places there too. You know, ‘curated fun’ with the hope it staying sort of manageably clean (c’mon mom, are you serious?) but with the expectation it was going to get very, very messy.

The painting was fun. And then I walked inside to finish cleaning the kitchen and washing the dishes (which was less fun). And within a few minutes of relative “more than quiet, quiet” I peeked out onto the back-lanai (patio in Hawaii) to our make-shift artist studio and, not fully surprisingly noticed, our wonderful little kiddo had proceeded to paint her hands. And not just paint her hands, but full-on, immersed herself in paint, paint her hands.

Of course she had. There was paint. And she’s four. What else would she have done once the rocks were finished? Anyone with a brain in their head would think the obvious next step from the rocks would be the hands.

And even though I wasn’t expecting it, I wasn’t immediately angry either. But, she hid from me as I came out, worried, I know, how I might react so she was definitely thinking my immediate reaction would be anger.

Now, let’s pause here for a moment to acknowledge that HER immediate worry was that I would be angry. I’ll get back to that in a moment.

For sure, with this unexpected little detour into messiness, I could have yelled, or been angry, or huffed and puffed with frustration.

I could have rolled my eyes and made her pick everything up, showing my disapproval.

And then, with each of those responses, her creative spark would have been extinguished and she would have felt like she was in trouble for being creative.

In parenting, you have like a split second to decide in most cases how you are going to respond to any situation. If you are tired, frustrated, in a hurry, exhausted (all the things IMG_6799we are as parents, all the time), you may, like me, end up acting or reacting in a way that is probably an overreaction and, within a few minutes of relative calm and clear headedness, you wish you hadn’t done.

No, I’m the only one? 

I doubt that….but, I’m not writing to guilt anyone – including myself – about how we sometimes probably likely wish we responded differently to situations with our children.

This is the typical situation (tell me if this sounds familiar): Your child does something you really wished they hadn’t, or, sometimes, you expressly told them not to. You get angry. Then you yell or lose your temper. And then your child reacts to your reaction, often in ways that have been escalated due to the upset parent reaction.

Often we enter what parents know well as “full on meltdown mode”. No fun for parent, or for kiddos.

It’s a viscous cycle. And not an uncommon one. But sometimes we lose our shit, and we have to give ourselves a little grace about that. Parenting is hard, and all we can do is take a step back after those not-so-ideal moments and realize we could have handled that differently, and think about HOW we could have handled that differently, so that next time, maybe we can.

So, in this one particular moment of the rock-turned-hand painting moment, I had the micro-second to realize that 1) she had not made too huge of a mess 2) it was water-based paint 3) she’s four AND – and this to me is the most important part here 4) she was TOTALLY waiting on my reaction.

And I had, in this tiny moment, the realization that any frustration I had was about ME. And having to “clean up a mess”, about time out of my busy day that I wasn’t planning on – – but when I looked at the face of my daughter, I realized very quickly, she didn’t see a mess. She saw fun, and creative play, and art, and beauty.

So instead, I broke what may be a more typical cycle or response and instead I said: “Thank you for not touching the door handle with your painty hands! Do you want me to get you some paper so you can make some pictures?”

IMG_6795Ok. Stop the presses here for just a hot minute. Friends, I gotta tell you, the smile that lit up her face was almost too much. Realizing that I had gotten this one right (sometimes I don’t, if I’m being totally, brutally honest), her happiness and relief and even her excitement and pride – it was beaming from her whole little body and I quite seriously got tears in my eyes.

Now, just for a moment, let’s go back to the response she was expecting from her mother. And, if I’m being totally honest with you all, the response that I just as easily could have given – anger, frustration, annoyance. Based on her reaction, this was the response she was expecting because, I am certain of it, I have responded enough like this in the past to make her expect that response.

That breaks my heart. In that moment, I vowed to continue to try to do better, every moment.

Loads of research exits that can help us understand the behavior of children and as a parent who is always looking for advice to be a better parent, I’ve read the research. A lot of it. I have books like Scream Free Parenting and The Conscious Parent on my bookshelf, well-worn and dog-eared. These books and all the research talks to us about those behaviors that can drive even the most calm parent among us to our breaking point, and how and what we are supposed to do in those moments.

That research reminds us in a lot of these situations, it’s not that kids are “being bad” but that, children often respond with emotional outbursts, hurtful words, or tantrums because this is the only way they know, in the moment, to show us how upset they are. When a child does something upsetting, and we respond with heightened emotions and being upset, we often escalate the tantrum situations (not always, but often).

According to Psychology Today, “children don’t yet have the frontal cortex neural pathways to control themselves as [adults] do. The best way to help children develop those neural pathways is to offer empathy, while they’re angry and at other times. It’s ok — good, actually — for child[ren] to express those tangled, angry, hurt feelings. After we support kids through a tantrum, they feel closer to us and more trusting. They feel less wound-up inside, so they can be more emotionally generous. They aren’t as rigid and demanding.”

But those books, and all the research, they aren’t there with us in those moments, are they?

And sometimes, our own emotions get the best of us, don’t they?

So, again, as parents, we are on the long-road journey and if in some moments we react before taking a moment to breathe and change our reaction, we can always remind ourselves to do better the next time.

And there’s always a next time. Parenting is a never-ending gig.

Screen Shot 2018-08-20 at 8.41.00 PMMy next time came just a few moments later when my daughter looked up at me and said excitedly, “mama, can I do a footprint too??” And I really wanted to say ‘no’ and I started to say ‘no’ but just asked instead “well, how will we make sure we don’t get paint from your feet all over the lanai?” And she said “you could bring me a paper towel?” with a hint of a little uptick in her intonation…wondering, hoping…


Yes, yes baby I can.

So, she made gorgeous, messy hands and feet art this weekend. And I let her. And it was messy and the world didn’t end.

And I honestly cry at the fact that I almost missed this moment. To capture her perfectly adorable 4.5 year-old footprints in paint. I look at these pieces of paper, and I get all teary-eyed again.

This could have gone so differently. What if I had yelled or gotten upset or let my frustration get the better of me?  What if the cycle of my response and reactions had been different?

I imagine I would have had an upset daughter, I wouldn’t have these beautiful footprints, and she wouldn’t have the memories of enjoying this play and creativity, and we’d both be upset for no good reason.

Instead, she is proud of her art. She even helped clean up without me asking. And I am sitting at the table writing this with tears in my eyes looking at a tiny footprint memorializing a moment of a parenting win.


Sources: Markham, Laura. “When Your Child Gets Angry: Here’s Your Gameplan.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 11 Apr. 2017,