Oct 21, 2019 | West Lexington


By Tim Scifres

We all are carrying an emotional toolbox with us every moment of every day.  This toolbox is carrying tools that drive our reactions to nearly every situation we experience daily.  For example:  I am sure all of you parents have experienced the meltdown of a child at an inopportune time, probably on multiple occasions.  What is going on with our children to get to a point of being irrationally upset?  I often talk with my wife about how quickly one of our daughters goes from the top of a mountain to the depth of a valley in seconds!  How as parents can we teach our children to stop the tantrum before it arrives? 

The longer I am around kids the more convinced I am that children are, at those moments in time, actually incapable of preventing the melt down.  They simply do not yet have the tools in their emotional toolbox to react any other way.  They truly do not know how to de-escalate their feelings and emotions.  They are unprepared to deal with some type of disappointment that is a big deal in their mind, while most of the time these meltdowns are directed towards something that seems small to us.  Small things like not getting a special toy or treat EVERY time they go to a store; or the shorts/blankie/stuffed animal they are currently obsessing over is in the laundry; or someone ate the last cookie.  I also know there can be many other factors in the timing of these tantrums, such as being tired, hungry, anxious, etc…  However, take a minute to think about what the difference is between a child having a tantrum and an adult having a tantrum.  The major difference is the adults have more tools in their toolbox to be able to have a tantrum minus the crying, pouting, screaming, and kicking.  As adults, we are more often able to deal with difficult situations without escalating to a point where we are irrational and unable to think logically about the situation. What kind of emotional tools can we, as parents, teach our children so they can better handle this type of situation?  Here are three tools that I want to teach and model to my two daughters as they grow into young women. 

  • Just breathe.  Many times at night, I will wake up and my mind will immediately hit the ground running about a thousand miles per hour thinking about tomorrow or thinking about all the possible outcomes of different situations that are laying ahead of me.  I have to keep telling myself to just breathe, because at that moment I cannot solve any of those problems.  The solutions to these problems are out of my control while lying in bed.  I want my daughters to be able to step back from a situation, take a breath, learn to control what they can actually control, and not become overwhelmed by thoughts of things beyond their control. 


  • Listen with a purpose.  Stephen R. Covey said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” How many times are we only partially hearing what someone is saying, because we are trying to think about what we are going to say in response?  We are often trying to come up with something to sound helpful, wise, smart, present a different perspective, or even to talk about a problem of our own.  We are not listening with a mind focused on understanding the person speaking to us.  I want my daughters to learn to listen with a purpose, with an ear towards understanding, not focused on their response.  I want them to focus on other people to hear how they can best serve that person.


  • Freak-out, then get to work.  When I was teaching Calculus and preparing my students to take their Advanced Placement Exam each year, I would tell them when they read a problem it is okay to have a freak-out moment.  This is a moment after reading through a problem where they are convinced they have NO idea how to do the problem.  HOWEVER, the key to being successful on that test (or any other obstacle we will face in life) is to be able to take a step back and realize they can figure out something to do, they can THINK their way to a solution.  Having the tool of being able to overcome doubts, then critically think our way through those obstacles, difficulties, problems, and growth opportunities we meet every day of our lives can be a deciding factor in continued struggle or success.  This tool will help us alleviate many stressful and anxious times, as we will have a confidence to find solutions.

These are just three tools I am becoming intentional in attempting to model and teach my daughters, not only my daughters, but my students at school, and all of my students at Mathnasium.  Let me be honest, many days I am just trying to keep these tools in my toolbox (even when I want to dump the whole toolbox out and just throw a huge tantrum).  I am by no means an expert in properly using these three tools, but I am trying to get better each day.  It really does my heart good to see my kids at home, school, Mathnasium, or anywhere make progress in using these tools to grow and mature!  Let us all be more patient when dealing with children as they learn to work through situations that have previously led to tantrums.  Let us recognize tantrums as powerful teachable moments for our children.  Let us all be intentional every day to look for opportunities to teach the kids in our lives how to stock their emotional toolbox with as many tools as they will possibly need to become the strong, confident, independent adults we know they can be!

If Mathnasium can be of service to help instill some tools, like critical thinking skills and math skills, give us a call at (859) 219-0001 to schedule a time for a complimentary assessment for your child.  We would cherish the opportunity to serve your family!