What This Is Like from Your Perspective

Life is exhausting. And it’s not just parenting — it’s EVERYTHING. So when your child is behaving negatively and you’re trying to handle it when you’re exhausted, things often do NOT go well.

…At the end of a long day, when you ask your child to put their stuff away they don’t listen, you may threaten to take away everything they care about…and then you can’t follow through.

…When you’re tired and you ask your child to stop making loud noises (because you need quiet) and they don’t listen, you (ironically) yell and scream at them and are very well aware that you’re being hypocritical.

…When you have no energy left to give and when you set a boundary your child responds disrespectfully, you say and do things that you (almost) immediately regret.

In-the-moment parenting and dealing with negative behavior is tough enough to being with. But when you’re depleted, it can seem like torture… and it rarely goes well.


What This Is Like from Your Child’s Perspective

Kids aren’t mature. They don’t always behave the way they’re supposed to, and they don’t always respond to our requests in the way that we hope they will.

Although they have the physical capacity to do things, they often don’t have the impulse control and frustration tolerance to do things they don’t feel like doing just because we want them to. So they…

don’t jump up immediately when you ask them to put their things away

don’t stop making noises when they’re craving stimulation (and they know that making you made will provide even more stimulation — plus a sense of control)

don’t respond respectfully when they’re told they can’t get their way and there’s nothing they can do about it.

When they’re in Yuck, they don’t act positively. And when you’re in Yuck too, it often makes their behavior (and everything else) worse.



How It Usually Goes When

We Set Boundaries When We’re Burnt Out


Scenario: Jeremy and his brother Simon are allowed to watch videos on their device, and are arguing over who gets to decide which video to watch when their dad Kevin enters the room. It’s a Friday, Kevin’s been at work all day, and he is completely exhausted.


Dad: BOYS! Stop fighting. NOW!

Jeremy (whining): But he won’t let me watch what I want to watch!

Simon (angrily): He won’t let ME watch what I want to watch. He always gets his way!

Jeremy: I do NOT!

Simon: YES you DO!

Dad: No he doesn’t… What is it that you want to watch, Simon?

Jeremy (whining): No fair! Why are you asking HIM?

Dad: Jeremy, would you STOP whining? I’m going to ask you too… But your whining is driving me crazy!

Simon: Yeah, Jeremy. Stop acting like a baby!

Jeremy: I’m NOT! I just want to watch!

Simon: Well I do too! Why should YOU always get your way?

Dad (roars): ENOUGH!! No one will watch anything if you keep this up!

Simon: That’s not FAIR! It’s the time you told us we could watch!

Jeremy: Yeah… You only let us watch certain times!

Dad: I DON’T CARE!!! NO ONE IS WATCHING! And no electronics tomorrow either since you clearly aren’t mature enough to handle it!

Jeremy: But DAD!

Simon: You’re just a jerk, Dad.

Dad (livid): That is IT, Simon! You go to your room – NOW. I don’t want to hear another word…

Simon starts to walk to his room, but he mutters something rude under his breath. His dad follows after him, and they continue to fight.

How It Usually Goes When

We Set Boundaries Proactively 


Scenario: Jeremy and his brother Simon are allowed to watch videos on their device, and are arguing over who gets to decide which video to watch when their dad Kevin enters the room. It’s a Friday, Kevin’s been at work all day, and he is completely exhausted.


Dad: Boys, I’m sorry you’re fighting. I’m exhausted, and I’m afraid of what will happen if I talk to you right now. I’m going to sit on the deck outside. We’re going to talk about this later.

Jeremy and Simon continue to argue. Dad reassures himself that no one is in danger and that he’ll only make things worse if he steps in now… so he walks away. 


Later that weekend, after Dad has spent some time with Jeremy and Simon….

Dad: I’ve noticed that there’s been a fighting over who gets to pick a video when it’s time for you to watch.

Simon: That’s because Jeremy always wants to watch stupid stuff.

Jeremy: SIMON!

Dad: Simon, you may not like Simon’s stuff, and that’s OK. You can dislike his stuff without being mean to him… So we need to find a solution to this problem of all of the fighting.

Jeremy: There’s no problem. We can just watch what I want.

Dad (lightheartedly): Ah, you’d like to invite us to Jeremy’s World? Where everything is good for Jeremy? That must be a fun world to be in. (He gives Jeremy a playful hug and remains lighthearted.) We do need to find a solution that works for everyone so you’re not fighting about this all the time.


Because Jeremy and Simon’s dad is addressing this issue when he’s not in Yuck, the boys’ bickering does not drive him crazy. He’s able to model what it looks like to stay in control even when things aren’t going his way.

Simon: Why do we have to watch at the same time?

Dad: What do you think we should do instead?

Simon: Well, if we had our own devices this wouldn’t be a problem.

Jeremy: Yeah, why can’t we each have our own tablet?

Dad: We have a family tablet. We just don’t think you need each need one. But it really sounds like you each need your own TIME with the tablet.



Instead of getting immediately frustrated by the boys’ behavior, Jeremy and Simon’s dad is able to understand what is going on for each of them. When he’s in a better place, he can identify the problem that needs to be solved.

Simon: Yeah.

Jeremy: Yeah. I don’t want to have to watch with him.

Dad: OK. I get that. How’s this? What if we set aside separate time for each of you instead of making you watch at the same time? You could watch alone with the family tablet.

Simon: So we don’t have to share that time anymore?

Dad: Right.

Jeremy: And we won’t get less time?

No. You can have the same amount of time. We’re just not buying you your own tablet.



Because he’s thinking more clearly, once he’s understood what’s upsetting the boys, Jeremy and Simon’s dad is able to maintain a firm boundary while finding a solution to the problem. Because he hasn’t made the situation worse by losing his cool, and because he’s had this conversation after connecting with them, Jeremy and Simon are more open to problem-solving as well.

Jeremy: I guess that’s OK.

Simon: Yeah, I guess so too.

Dad: OK, let’s try this for a week and see how it goes. We’ll check in next weekend.


When Jeremy and Simon’s Dad deals with this issue proactively, he is able to set more effective boundaries by:
  • staying calm so he doesn’t make the situation worse
  • dealing with the kids’ selfish remarks without getting triggered
  • taking the time to see the real problem under the kids’ behavior — they each wanted to have time to themselves to watch something
  • focusing on finding a solution that will work

Often we feel like we MUST address behavior in the moment, but it’s more effective to wait and address it when everyone is out of Yuck and can access the respectful, open-minded, problem-solving part of the brain.

If you find that you’re burnt out all the time, check out the Overcoming Overwhelm program or reach out to me.