When Out-of-Control Kids Can’t Hear Your Gentle Voice

by | Apr 20, 2020 | Anger & Outbursts, Parenting

Whether it’s angry sibling conflict or just wild and silly craziness, it’s hard to know how to engage kids’ mayhem without using a fast, large, and loud response to intimidate them. 

Jack and Lisa, who came to us for coaching, described this challenge well:

“What should we do when everyone is yelling? We try to be calm with our kids but instead get ignored. We usually get a little stronger and louder, and still get ignored, until WE’RE FRUSTRATED AND YELLING! We just end up compounding the craziness!” 

I used this metaphor to explain how they could engage:

Imagine your child as a wildly circling small airplane. You are on the ground, trying to communicate calmly to get his attention. He has no idea you are even there! But if you fly up near him with some big energy (but a calm heart!) he can notice and connect with you. Then you can guide him with a little more structure and sanity to come on down for a landing as he begins to follow your lead. 

What this looks like through the lens of the Connected Families framework:

You are SAFE with me. 

Take a deep breath, and ask God to give you a peaceful heart but strong presence. 

You are LOVED no matter what. 

Get right in the middle of your kids and connect intensely (which will match their intense mood) with some loud, strong empathy statements. These are two common scenarios: 

  • Wild and crazy:
    “Hey, you guys are really having fun! That’s awesome!”
     You can also join the fun for a bit if needed to gradually introduce structure and more calmness.
  • Angry and yelling:
    “Wow, this is really hard for both of you, isn’t it?!” You can also put an arm around each child if they are willing to accept it.


Continue with a confident voice and say something like:

  • Wild and crazy:
    “What are your ideas about making sure you stay safe, and all the grownups can hear each other?” 
  • Angry and yelling:
    “Would you like some help solving this or do you think you can do that on your own?” 

You are RESPONSIBLE for your actions.

Hold kids accountable to figure out how to play safely and respectfully, or to reconcile a sibling conflict. If you get a quick, “I dunno,” to the above questions, help them find a comfortable spot to unwind and calm down until they can come up with a solution.

After my coaching clients left, they arrived home to wild, crazy kids who were ignoring their frustrated babysitter. The parents entered with big, light-hearted, connective energy, and won the respect and listening ear of their kids. The mom emailed back later and said, “I couldn’t believe it. It actually worked!” 

This isn’t just helpful for younger children. A struggling teen can be helped by peaceful (but confident!) connective empathy as well. For example, (emphatically) — “WOW, you seem frustrated — those are some really strong words! Let’s talk after dinner so we can be respectful and solve this well.” 

No matter what their age, when your kids’ self-control is nowhere to be found, they need you to be calm and self-controlled. But strong. So enter with confident (even loud) empathy! 

Remember — those energetic, erratic, developing brains that make them so out of control (and even emotional) in some situations, also make them hilarious and adorable in others! 

Discipline That Connects With Your Child’s Heart online course registration will open in early 2020. You’ll learn lots more practical ways to bring these four life-changing messages to your discipline challenges. We hope you’ll join us!

Used with permission. Originally published at connectedfamilies.org.