File this one under ‘simple techniques, that, when taught & role modeled 1000 times, will produce a life-long benefit for your child.’

The scene: your 4 year old is upset because you have brought her the pink shoes instead of the purple ones.  (How could you?!)  Whining, crying, yelling and more fun stuff are starting to rear their heads.  

Try this next time:

  • Take a deep breath yourself
  • Tell your daughter to take her own deep breath and then to use her words to ask for what she wants. 
  • The (deep) breath is important, don’t let either of you skip that part
  • Say something like: “We can use our words to solve this problem.”  (or, “YOU can use your words to get what you want here.”)
  • When she does take a deep breath and ask for what she wants (even if it’s not perfectly done), praise her for using her words SO WELL! and immediately bring her the purple shoes.
  • Talk about it afterwords with her, in order to review the experience & strengthen the teachable moment… this might sound something like “You were so upset when I brought the pink shoes.  I was so proud of you that you took a deep breath and used your words to ask for what you really wanted.  And it worked!  You got exactly what you wanted and we could go back to playing right away.  I’m so proud of you!”


Rinse, lather, repeat x 1000, and eventually you’ll start seeing the time that lapses between (a) the beginnings of upset and (b) self-regulation and calmly talking through problems, begin to decline.  This is huge!  Give yourself and your kid a pat on the back and a lot of credit.  Huge!

Note: It’s good to start with small stuff where she really can have whatever she wants–not situations where what she wants is a pony or to skip school, etc.