How to Stay Sane When Your Kids Fight

How to stay sane when your kids fight - horses fighting

If you want to stay sane when your kids fight and help everyone learn from the process, you need to do three things:

1. Deal with the immediate situation

2. Recover (let go of all the negative energy you’ve absorbed)

3. Help your kids heal and learn from what happened

Here’s a crockery-smashing example from our family.

The Fight

I walk into the kitchen, feeling calm after meditating and looking forward to afternoon tea together. My children are arguing loudly about who gets to microwave their cocoa first.

Someone kicks someone else.

I throw myself between them to prevent escalation.

Unable to hit back, the injured child throws a full cup of cocoa across the room and swipes a jugful of milk off the counter as they storm out.

The Aftermath

1. Deal with the immediate situation

After checking the kicked child is okay, I spend the next half hour picking up broken china, scrubbing cocoa off cupboards, and mopping the floor.

On the outside I’m completely calm, but I know I’m holding back my emotions until it’s safe to process them.

I put the dirty towels in the washing machine and head for my room.

2. Recover

I tell my kids that I’m going to meditate, and quietly suggest they do something to help them calm, too.

Getting calm

As I begin listening to a guided meditation about relationships, tears begin to flow.

However good your boundaries, it’s difficult to be in the thick of intense negative energy without absorbing some.

I give myself an imaginary hug as the soothing words of the meditation wash over me.

Fifteen minutes later I’m feeling much calmer. But when I imagine talking with my children about the incident, I feel stressed again. I need to be fully regulated if I want to help my kids process and learn from what happened.


I decide to use a technique I’ve used many times with clients, my children and on myself.

The Fast Phobia Cure works by recoding the way the brain stores a traumatic event in our memory. It’s more complicated to explain that it is to do, so I won’t go through all the steps now, but if you’re interested leave me a comment and I’ll share the process in a separate post.  In the meantime, these instructions are the clearest I’ve come across (scroll down to How to re-programme your amygdala using NLP).

As I use the Fast Phobia Cure, I check in with myself to see how triggered I feel when I think about the fight. After cycling through the process four times, I can barely summon any negative emotion, but I’m left with a slight heaviness in my chest.

I’m on a roll now, so I tune into the heavy feeling and ask myself which direction it’s moving in. (Emotions are energy, so they can’t stay still.)

I imagine physically removing the feeling from my chest, flipping it over, and replacing it so that it’s  spinning in the opposite direction.

As I notice how much better that feels, I imagine the new, positive feeling spinning faster.

I change the colour of the feeling, from inky black to fluffy pink.

I breathe deeply and imagine golden light filling my body.

This whole process takes less than ten minutes, and leaves me feeling better than ever.

I’m ready to talk with my kids.

Note: Meditation and NLP are my go-to healing processes. Your will be different. Do what works for you. 🙂 

3. Helping children learn from what’s happened

There is no failure. Only feedback.

Robert G Allen

Every breakdown carries an opportunity for a breakthrough. But first we have to get to a place where we can think.

I sit quietly on the bed of the child who threw the mug. They’ve been looking at cute cat photos. I acknowledge them for doing something to help them get calm. I share the steps I took to feel better.

They say they feel better, but angry tears fill their eyes as they say bitterly, ‘But I’m I not ready to forgive XXX!’

We talk about how forgiveness isn’t about the other person – it’s about choosing to feel better ourselves. ‘Holding onto anger is like taking poison and expecting the other person to get sick.’

We go downstairs. The person who kicked apologises.

The child who was kicked hugs their sibling and says, ‘It’s okay. Anyone else would’ve kicked me a lot sooner. I love you.’

We all smile through our tears at this child’s quirky humour.

Over dinner, we discuss the argument that led up to the fight. Both children realise that it was caused by assumption and miscommunication. We talk about how arguments escalate when our window of stress tolerance is small. We decide to practise non-violent communication techniques soon.

If you have very young children

Don’t worry if your kids are too young to leave unsupervised while you go somewhere peaceful to process your emotions.

Do whatever it takes to stay sane in the moment, and retreat to do the healing work when your kids are in bed or another adult takes over childcare.

The important thing is to reach a point where you can stay authentically regulated while you talk with your children about what happened.

 * * *

Things around here are rarely this extreme, but I know we’re not the only ones who experience this level of physical and emotional intensity from time to time.

Let’s not feel shame.  Let’s appreciate ourselves for doing the best we can to help our awesome kids manage their intensity.

I feel quite vulnerable writing posts like this, but it’s worth it if it helps even one other person know they’re not alone. We’re all in this together.?

* * *

Do you want to read more about living positively with intensity and sensitivity?  Leave your email address in the box at the bottom of the page to receive posts direct to your inbox.  You can also like Laugh, Love, Learn on Facebook.


Photo credit: SilviaP_Design

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6 thoughts on “How to Stay Sane When Your Kids Fight

  1. You are certainly not the only family to be experiencing this kind of physical and emotional intensity and I truly believe it helps others when we are able to be honest about the reality of family life (an OE family anyway!).

    I think the vulnerability we feel is because we judge ourselves as having failed as a parent in these situations along the lines of: “if I was doing a good job as a parent my children would behave perfectly”. Of course this is ridiculous! We are all only human and our children are only children, so will behave childishly sometimes! (Anyone else found themselves saying “stop being so childish” and then realising what a nonsensical thing that is to say to a child?!)

    When I can remove the self blame and prevent myself being sucked into the negative emotions, then I am able to respond so much more positively to the situation. That prevents it spiralling into a much worse scenario and – as you demonstrated above in the wonderful way you were able to handle this incident – becomes a valuable lesson for our children on how to handle difficult situations.

    Thank you for being brave and sharing this story. There are people out there who need this kind of honesty. I know because I was one. From the age of 3-6yrs my eldest struggled with very intense feelings that led her to regularly attack me. For years I felt I was failing as a parent, that I must be doing something wrong because I never heard or read of anyone else experiencing this. Then I came across PowerWood ( and learnt about OEs and it changed our family life. The first time I heard someone else describing their child’s aggression towards them, and then learnt that most of the parents in the room had experienced it, I cried with relief. It wasn’t just me! I now understand so much better why my child was reacting that way and the steps I could take to help her and myself. Learning to manage my own negative thinking and unconscious responses has been the key to being able to help my child. Not an easy thing to do but like you show in this story, it makes such s difference to our children and their reactions when we do manage it. As Simone de Hoogh has taught me, “We are the context of our children”.

    1. Kirsty, Thank you for adding your valuable perspective and experiences to this conversation. PowerWood and Simone – and the friends I’ve made through PW – have made so much difference to me, too.

      Blaming ourselves – or indeed our children – never helps, does it?

      Thank you for your encouragement and support, Kirsty, I always appreciate it! 🙂

  2. Thank you, Lucinda, for sharing this story.

    If you’re willing to share even more, how were both of the children afterwards?

    I ask because my experience has been that any explosive moments are twofold.

    There’s the explosion itself – ours have subsided thankfully and were for quite different reasons to your example. But these were big explosions of emotion, expressed verbally and physically.

    But our biggest hurdle was part-two – the intense guilt felt by the child afterwards and the ‘why am I like this?’

    Learning about OEs and learning to recognise them in ourselves has been very helpful.

    1. Thank you for reading, M.:)

      Learning about OEs and learning to recognise them in ourselves has been very helpful.

      For us, too. Just having this framework and language is so empowering.

      I know what you mean about ‘part two’. One of my children used to have this especially. Your comment made me realise that she’s much better at handling that side of things now. But yes, getting over that hurdle can be the hardest part of the whole process. Maybe I could write about it in another post – I’m sure lots of people can relate.

      In this instance, everyone recovered quite quickly. I like to think that prioritising my own regulation and not having a blaming post mortem about who did what to whom helped.

  3. Intense kiddos are such a complicated tangle, aren’t they? Thank you for sharing your story – I’m rarely as calm and centered aa you when dealing with this stuff. You set such a good example for your kids!

    1. Thank you for reading, Mary. I haven’t always been this calm, but practise makes progress, if not perfect – and my awesome kids have certainly given me plenty of that! ?

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