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30th Jan 2024

Why your reaction matters most in these three parenting scenarios

Aisling Keenan


Take a deep breath. Here’s a mini-survival guide on how to deal with three very common parenting scenarios.

Parenting is, in a word, exhilarating. Take that how you want to – good, bad, chaotic, wonderful, tear-inducing.

It’s filled with unexpected twists and turns; falls, injuries, tantrums, regressions, stretches, leaps, you name it. As our little ones explore the world around them, they inevitably stumble upon situations that can leave us bewildered at best, stressed out of our bins at worst.

It’s in these moments (the not-so-precious ones) that controlling our reactions is absolutely key to how the situation will unfold. Here is a guide to three such situations that I have had the misfortune of being in recently, and how I attempted to deal with it, using my adult-exclusive ability to control my own  reactions.

Turning a tumble into a teachable moment

Kids are going to fall and hurt themselves. Or in my case, pull a full length mirror down on top of them when your back is turned for a split second. When your child takes a tumble, it’s crucial to manage your own instinctive reactions.

A gasp or a loud exclamation will almost always amplify their distress, or cause panic where there was none to begin with. Instead, take a deep breath, assess the situation, and gauge your child’s reaction. Let them lead you. If they’re not seriously hurt, offer them a reassuring smile and help them get back on their feet. This teaches resilience and the importance of getting up after a fall. Remember, children often take cues from our own responses.

Harry Potter and the cursing child

Kids have an uncanny knack for saying the wrong thing at the most inopportune times. They’ll almost always scream “SHITE” just as you’re about to leave the GPs office, or “JESUS CHRIST” right there in the queue for the Post Office. When your child uses an inappropriate word in public, obviously mortification is stage one. Then, remind yourself once again to stop saying jesus christ and shite when they’re around. Once you’ve chastised yourself (!) stay composed and don’t make a big deal out of what was said. If they’re old enough, explain that certain words are for ‘at-home’ moments only. At the very least, you’ll only have to stifle your laughter in your own living room.

Well that’s a slap in the face

When your child lashes out with hitting or pushing, it can be very stressful indeed – whether you’re the recipient or someone else is. However, these actions are often driven by frustration or a lack of understanding on how to handle emotions. Instead of reacting with anger, respond with empathy. Take a deep breath, kneel down to their level, and let them know hitting is not acceptable behaviour. Teach them alternative ways to express their feelings, like using words or taking deep breaths themselves. Address the underlying cause of their frustration to help them build emotional intelligence. In all these scenarios, remember that your reactions serve as powerful examples for your child. Your calm demeanor teaches them emotional regulation, problem-solving, and empathy. Take a moment to pause and reflect on your own emotions before responding.

And don’t forget, every parent has moments (hours, days, weeks, decades) when their reactions don’t go as planned. It’s all part of the learning curve, for both you and your child. By taking a more mindful approach to your reactions, you’re not only fostering your child’s development but also creating a more secure environment for them in which to (WE HOPE) thrive.