3 quick, effective tips to help kids calm down

#3—Throw away the angry ball together! 

3 quick, effective tips to help kids calm down

The other day my son lost it. He was gasping for breath as he cried his little heart out and all because of a box of leftover pizza. We had gone out to dinner and as we got in the car, my husband put the pizza box with our leftovers on top of the car. We drove away and (surprise!) the box flew off the top of the car.

My husband said – “uh-oh” and I reacted with an “oh-no” and my son absolutely lost it. All the way home he sobbed. In between, rasping breaths he said, “I …can’t… stop… crying!” It took us completely by surprise because first, he doesn’t love pizza all THAT much and second, it was such a little thing.


Sometimes the things that seem little to us are BIG things to them and when they get into that zone where emotions take over, they can have a hard time calming down.

Has your child ever said they can’t stop crying? Or gets so frustrated that they lash out? Or gets in a grumpy mood they can’t seem to shake?

Here are my three quick tips to help in those moments when emotions overwhelm kids.

1. Turn that Frown Upside Down!

Young children think about things as being fixed and unchangeable, and they view emotions this way too. They don’t realize or sometimes don’t remember that how they feel isn’t going to last forever.

They also need reminders that they can control their emotions.

When my son is grumpy or grouchy I always use this trick.

First, I name the emotion. I say: “You seem grumpy today. Do you remember you can turn that frown upside down? You can change that grumpy face into a happy face?” Then I demonstrate by over exaggerating a frown and then a smile. We make it a game until and he is turning that frown upside down. I follow up by saying—“You did it! You turned your frown upside down! You changed how you felt inside. Do you feel better? Now let’s have a wonderful day!” There is actually quite a bit of research which shows that forcing a smile makes you feel happier and can even reduce stress.

Join Motherly

2. Blow out the birthday candle!

Sometimes emotions get really out of control and in the midst of crying or having a tantrum you can see your child really can’t calm down. My son has even said before “I can’t stop crying!”

In these situations, the best thing you can do is to get your child to breathe.

But when they are really upset sometimes saying “take a deep breath” isn’t enough. Breathing with them can help, especially if you practice breathing at other times. For example, one bedtime song I sing is a “relaxing song” and part of it is to take 3 deep breaths. I put my hand on his stomach and teach him to breath into his tummy so my hand goes up and down.

When kids are really upset you may need something more concrete that they can imagine to get them to breath. I’ve seen different techniques like blowing bubbles or blowing out the birthday candle. The candle has worked best for us. I hold up one finger and I say blow out the candle and breath! Once he does a few times I make my finger “fall down” and a few laughs shine through the tears. Once they are calm you can begin to work through the feelings. Breathing helps to reverse the stress response that comes with big emotions allowing children to be calm again.

3. Throw away that angry ball!

Anger and frustration can be really useful emotions in the right amount. Frustration can help kids stay on task until it is done and increase determination. But too much frustration and anger does the opposite. Most often kids are angry because their goal is somehow blocked. That Lego piece doesn’t do what they want it to do, they can’t do what they want to do because you said no (and probably for good reason) or some other obstacle.

You don’t want to view anger and frustration as negative because they can be good in the right amounts.

First, name the emotion. “You seem angry/frustrated. Is it because you can’t _______? I see a big angry ball in you! It’s too much anger! Let’s throw some of it away!” Then I demonstrate throwing an imaginary ball as hard as I can.

This helps them release a little bit of that anger by pretend throwing. Once they have done the throwing as hard as they can they usually feel a little bit better. But I don’t want them to lose the determination. So if it is something that they can do I will encourage them to try again. If it something that they shouldn’t do, I redirect them to do something else or explain why we can’t do that.

Those are my three quick tips for helping kids to calm down and regulate emotions. Once your child is calm again be sure to talk with them about the emotion they were feeling. Name the emotion and help them to understand why they felt that way. Then talk about what they might try next time or use it as an opportunity to understand your child better and what their triggers might be.

Here’s a free printable to help you and your child remember the strategies.

Remember emotions aren’t bad—we don’t want to get rid of emotions, we want to regulate them. Emotions are raw energy. We have to teach our children how to harness that energy so that they can be persistent, motivated and reach their goals.

A version of this article was originally published on Nurture and Thrive.

Join Motherly

By its very nature, motherhood requires some lifestyle adjustments: Instead of staying up late with friends, you get up early for snuggles with your baby. Instead of spontaneous date nights with your honey, you take afternoon family strolls with your little love. Instead of running out of the house with just your keys and phone, you only leave with a fully loaded diaper bag.

For breastfeeding or pumping mamas, there is an additional layer of consideration around when, how and how much your baby will eat. Thankfully, when it comes to effective solutions for nursing or bottle-feeding your baby, Dr. Brown's puts the considerations of mamas and their babies first with products that help with every step of the process—from comfortably adjusting to nursing your newborn to introducing a bottle to efficiently pumping.

With countless hours spent breastfeeding, pumping and bottle-feeding, the editors at Motherly know the secret to success is having dependable supplies that can help you feed your baby in a way that matches lifestyle.

Here are 9 breastfeeding and pumping products to help you no matter what the day holds.

Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's electric pump

For efficient, productive pumping sessions, a double electric breast pump will help you get the job done as quickly as possible. Quiet for nighttime pumping sessions and compact for bringing along to work, this double pump puts you in control with fully adjustable settings.


Hands-Free Pumping Bra

Dr. Brown''s hands free pumping bra

Especially in the early days, feeding your baby can feel like a pretty consuming task. A hands-free pumping bra will help you reclaim some of your precious time while pumping—and all mamas will know just how valuable more time can be!


Manual Breast Pump with SoftShape™ Silicone Shield

Dr. Brown's manual breast pump

If you live a life that sometimes takes you away from electrical outlets (that's most of us!), then you'll absolutely want a manual breast pump in your arsenal. With two pumping modes to promote efficient milk expression and a comfort-fitted shield, a manual pump is simply the most convenient pump to take along and use. Although it may not get as much glory as an electric pump, we really appreciate how quick and easy this manual pump is to use—and how liberating it is not to stress about finding a power supply.


Nipple Shields and Sterilization Case

Dr. Brown's nipple shields

There is a bit of a learning curve to breastfeeding—for both mamas and babies. Thankfully, even if there are some physical challenges (like inverted nipples or a baby's tongue tie) or nursing doesn't click right away, silicone nipple shields can be a huge help. With a convenient carry case that can be sterilized in the microwave, you don't have to worry about germs or bacteria either. 🙌


Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's silicone pump

When you are feeding your baby on one breast, the other can still experience milk letdown—which means it's a golden opportunity to save some additional milk. With a silent, hands-free silicone pump, you can easily collect milk while nursing.


Breast to Bottle Pump & Store Feeding Set

After a lifetime of nursing from the breast, introducing a bottle can be a bit of a strange experience for babies. Dr. Brown's Options+™ and slow flow bottle nipples were designed with this in mind to make the introduction to bottles smooth and pleasant for parents and babies. As a set that seamlessly works together from pumping to storing milk to bottle feeding, you don't have to stress about having everything you need to keep your baby fed and happy either.


Washable Breast Pads

washable breast pads

Mamas' bodies are amazingly made to help breast milk flow when it's in demand—but occasionally also at other times. Especially as your supply is establishing or your breasts are fuller as the length between feeding sessions increase, it's helpful to use washable nursing pads to prevent breast milk from leaking through your bra.


Breast Milk Storage Bags

Dr. Brown's milk storage bags

The essential for mamas who do any pumping, breast milk storage bags allow you to easily and safely seal expressed milk in the refrigerator or freezer. Dr. Brown's™ Breast Milk Storage Bags take it even further with extra thick walls that block out scents from other food items and feature an ultra secure lock to prevent leaking.


Watch one mama's review of the new Dr. Brown's breastfeeding line here:

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

This is my one trick to get baby to sleep (and it always works!)

There's a reason why every mom tells you to buy a sound machine.

So in my defense, I grew up in Florida. As a child of the sunshine state, I knew I had to check for gators before sitting on the toilet, that cockroaches didn't just scurry, they actually flew, and at that point, the most popular and only sound machine I had ever heard of was the Miami Sound Machine.

I was raised on the notion that the rhythm was going to get me, not lull me into a peaceful slumber. Who knew?!

Well evidently science and, probably, Gloria Estefan knew, but I digress.

When my son was born, I just assumed the kid would know how to sleep. When I'm tired that's what I do, so why wouldn't this smaller more easily exhausted version of me not work the same way? Well, the simple and cinematic answer is, he is not in Kansas anymore.

Being in utero is like being in a warm, soothing and squishy spa. It's cozy, it's secure, it comes with its own soundtrack. Then one day the spa is gone. The space is bigger, brighter and the constant stream of music has come to an abrupt end. Your baby just needs a little time to acclimate and a little assist from continuous sound support.

My son, like most babies, was a restless and active sleeper. It didn't take much to jolt him from a sound sleep to crying like a banshee. I once microwaved a piece of pizza, and you would have thought I let 50 Rockettes into his room to perform a kick line.

I was literally walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around the house, watching the television with the closed caption on.

Like adults, babies have an internal clock. Unlike adults, babies haven't harnessed the ability to hit the snooze button on that internal clock. Lucky for babies they have a great Mama to hit the snooze button for them.

Enter the beloved by all—sound machines.

Keep reading Show less

Is this viral bedtime chart realistic for most parents?

Some of the recommendations feel impractical—especially for working parents.

In 2015 a teacher at an elementary school in Wisconsin posted a 'bedtimes by age' chart to Facebook, and parents are still commenting on this post nearly four years later.

The teacher who posted the chart, Stacy Karlsen, didn't create it, she just found it, she told Fox 6 back in 2015. She thought the parents of the 200 or so kids at Wilson Elementary would find the chart as helpful as she did, but the post's viral reach went far beyond her intended audience.

Keep reading Show less