Telling Your Child to ‘Calm Down’ Doesn’t Work. Say This Instead…

“Calm down” is a phrase that all parents are familiar with. It’s a seemingly direct phrase that’s often used to stop children from acting quarrelsome or unruly. So why is it that a child throwing a tantrum doesn’t seem to understand that phrase the same way as adults do? Unfortunately, telling a young child to “calm down” can be tantamount to saying nothing at all. It doesn’t tell children how to appropriately act. They must learn, and a phrase like “calm down” doesn’t teach so much as it tells — in unspecified language, for that matter.

Until kids learn what exactly “calm down” means, it’s not very useful. However, there are other things you can say that make it clearer what you want a child to do. Here are more specific phrases you can use to get your child to “calm down” while also teaching them how to do so.

8. “Take a Deep Breath”

Because it’s physically impossible to scream and breathe, telling a child to take deep breaths can be useful when trying to end a temper tantrum. Taking deep breaths will slow their breathing and blood pressure, which then helps to clear the mind. Deep breathing, often associated with meditation, is something that’s useful far into adulthood.

7. “Count to 10”

Having a child count can be helpful toward calming them when they’re upset, as it forces them to focus on something else. Counting can distract a child from whatever may be troubling them, and in turn, help them relax.

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