Children will act like children, which makes it crucial that the parents act like grown-ups. Seems self-evident, but it takes staying mindful, according to Markham. A state of mindfulness is when you’re aware of your emotions, but let them pass without acting on them. When parents act out mindlessly — from anger, frustration or stress — they are not being their best selves.
To achieve a more mindful state, parents have to break the cycle created by an emotional wound they suffered as kids. When something a child does triggers a parent to act out, that’s pointing to an unresolved issue from the parent’s childhood that needs addressing. Dr. Markham’s advice? As soon as you feel yourself heading down the wrong path, stop. Not only does this model good anger management, but it also helps you calm down. Reacting while angry typically results in saying or doing something you wouldn’t in a calmer state. Discharge the anger in whatever way works for you — whether that’s deep breathing or leaving the room to collect yourself. Parents should never discipline when they’re angry, or use physical force or threats. Being thoughtful about your word choice and tone also can diffuse a situation, calm your child and set a good example.