Hi, I'm Dr. Beth Onufrak!

Get tough or be gentle?

published12 days ago
2 min read


Be Gentle or Tough?

Hi There!

Some kids just cannot go with the flow.

The ice cream isn’t the way they want it;

a peer won't play their game;

a small schedule shift sends them for a loop.

You try everything but the meltdown builds. And then the whole day is shot. It's painful, frustrating and defeating.

Have you wondered "Why does my child crumble while others get over it and move on?"

You and other caregivers may disagree.

One says "We’ve got to be tougher" and another says "We’ve got to be gentler."

From a ChildSightTools® point of view, each child is a puzzle, a developing person to be respected, assisted, and figured out.

Handling strong emotions is a coping skill; and coping skills are learned.

Many kids greatly need our help.

So how to best help your child?

A or B?

Most parents toggle between tough or gentle, like a choice between A or B.

(A) Being Tough:

Threatening, punitive responses hike up kids' anxiety.

Then kids spend their energy being afraid of you and big consequences.

This diverts their energy from coping with the challenge at hand. Like a hole in a pitcher.

(B) Being Gentle:

On the other hand, babying them, removing them from the situation, fixing it for them…

These gentle responses may satisfy your heart.

But not build a coping skill for the future.

There’s no simple answer, and no one-size-fits-all formula. How could there possibly be?

So my answer to "gentle or firm?" is usually not A or B ... but rather J, K or L.

Here are three ChildSightTools® guidelines to help you move forward, down the middle between Gentle and Tough.

Straight from my therapy room, these ideas have untied painful family knots.

Locate and lessen stress.

The meltdown isn’t always about the situation at hand.

Sometimes it's about something earlier in the day, the week, the month.

Take a look at your lives.

Be on the lookout for stress points in your child's day and life.

What is draining their energy, leaving them less gas for the small stuff, like the meltdown of today?

Be on the lookout for stress points in your child's life.

Feelings first.

You can’t discipline feelings.

Kids can't "cope" until they understand their own emotions.

Coping begins with grasping a feeling.

Help your child name them. Sad, scared, worried, angry, hurt.

Each meltdown is a chance to build this priceless ability.

Help your child name emotions early in life.

Keep connected.

Join with your child “at the heart level" instead of leading with discipline.

This builds a bridge of attachment to get across, well, troubled waters.

Strong, warm bonds can shorten a meltdown, reduce its intensity, and make "returning to baseline" a lot faster.

Join your child at the heart level.

Try seeing your child's issues as coping moments, rather than simply behavioral issues.

That may help you strike the delicately balance between The Gentle and the The Tough.

My ChildSightTools® courses reduce battles, grow child coping skills, heal relationships, and restore parenting joy.

Learn how they can help you!

See you next time!

And remember ... Looking through your child's eyes changes everything.


Dr. Beth

Headshot of Dr. Beth

What are your thoughts? Hit reply or email

Let's connect! You can find me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

Did this make you think of a friend? Send it on!

Got this from a friend? Get the newsletter yourself!