Poor communication with your child can lead to power struggles. Chronic power struggles can often lead to escalated arguments and negative behavioral outcomes. Being a parent is hard! Being a parent takes considerable effort and constant evaluation of those efforts. Sound stressful? Well, let me tell you that you are not alone! These 7 Tips for de-escalation can help you feel more confident and ready for your ever changing child.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve been part of a conversation with your child that sounds something like this…

You: “Why are you playing your video games when the trash hasn’t been taken out yet?!”

Child: “I guess I forgot about it”

You: “why do I always have to remind you about the trash a million times? Why can’t you just be responsible for once?”

Child: “I already told you that I’ll do it. Just leave me alone already!”

You: “Excuse me? Now you are grounded AND on extra trash duty. Now go to your room!”

This is a fairly typical example of a power struggle between a parent and child that can lead to escalated outcomes. If you want to avoid this type of behavior (or worse) and are ready to make some changes in the communication with your child, keep reading!

If used consistently and with genuine effort, these 7 de-escalation tips may help reduce the frequency, duration and intensity of  your child’s unwanted behaviors.

Tip 1: Use an Empathetic and Non-judgmental Approach

  • To avoid the power struggles that keep us in a negative feedback loop with our child, we need to implement empathy. If we are curiously aware of our child’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors, we will be better equipped to address those vulnerable thoughts and feelings that lead to the behaviors rather than only responding to the negative behaviors. If we only focus on the negative behaviors we find ourselves in power struggles.
  • Keeping an open mind and having stabilizing thoughts about our children’s behaviors such as, “we are all human and sometimes humans make mistakes” or “All human behavior makes sense within context” allows us to be non-judgmental and effectively use empathy.

Tip 3: Give Them Space

  • When we feel overwhelmed and out of control we naturally seek safety. For some children, having physical personal space helps them to self-sooth, which is vital for healthy emotional regulation.
  • If your child needs some space give it to them. You can also use this time to self-sooth your emotions as well.
  • Once you are both calm it is important to return to the conversation with empathy and a non-judgmental tone to work toward resolution.

Tip 4: Use Non-threatening communication and Non-verbal Gestures

  • When we are attempting to de-escalate, it is important to approach others in a non-threatening way. Here are some basic Do’s and Don’ts for non-threatening communication
Don’t talk to your child with your arms crossed. It can send messages of power and intimidation. They won’t want to open up to you if they are in fear.
Don’t talk loudly or aggressively. Now is the time to be curious about what they have to say about the situation. Remove yourself from the equation. Actively listening can give you important information about their current feelings.
Don’t dismiss their opinions or interpretations of events. Validation will help them open up more about what they are feeling.
Do make consistent eye-contact. This will send them messages that you are interested in what they have to say and that you care.
Do sit with your arms relaxed or open. This will also help them feel more relaxed and safe.
Do make sure to validate what they are experiencing and saying. You don’t have to agree with them to make them feel herd and understood.

Tip 5: Feelings Aren’t Fact

  • Feelings and emotions are essential to our existence as humans. However, feelings are just that, feelings, not facts. Our feelings come and go and often very quickly. Acting solely on feelings and emotions is impulsive and it can lead to exaggerated outcomes.
  • If we can listen to the message behind the negative words and behaviors of our children, we are better able to address the real underlying fear, anxiety, or emotional pain that is driving that unwanted behavior.

Tip 6: Don’t Overreact

  • Although you are not able to control your child’s thoughts, feelings or behaviors, you do have control over how you respond to those behaviors and what those behaviors are trying to saying.

Tip 7: Setting Limits

  • If someone is acting out in a violent or dangerous way, it is important to make sure you give them clear and simple directions with limits. Keeping it simple is important. When children are in a state of anger and potentially harmful behavior, they are not able to hear what you are saying and they may even feel more overwhelmed by complex direction or requests.

Allow time for reflection and processing the event

  • Some events can be very stressful and overwhelming for everyone involved. Take the time you need to relax and ground yourself. This is critical for healthy emotional regulation.
  • Ground yourself in the here-and-now.
  • Reflect on how you currently feel, identify and validate your feelings.

Grounding exercise

Going through this exercise helps you focus on the present moment and become grounded in the here and now. The next time you are feeling anxious, sad, angry or just overwhelmed, try to identify all of these things and see how you feel!

  • 5 things you can see.
  • 4 things you can feel.
  • 3 things you can hear.
  • 2 things you can smell.
  • 1 thing you can taste.


If you and your child are in need of a communication overhaul, feel free to reach out and start your journey to healthier communication and a happier relationship with your child!

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