How to help kids calm down: Lessons from Inuit parents

How to help kids calm down: Lessons from Inuit parents

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NPR recently published an article about how Inuit parents help kids control their anger. The authors of the article traveled to Iqualuit, Canada, to follow up on research Jean Briggs did in 1960s and 1970s. Briggs and the authors found that Inuit parents were raising children who were remarkably calm. These four takeaways can help you follow in their footsteps:

Stay calm

The Inuit mothers in the article all talked about how they never yell or shout at small children. This may seem hard, but it's not impossible. The Inuit mothers described how parents who yell at their already upset kids are stooping to their kids' levels. Instead of yelling, parents are more effective when they can model how to regulate their emotions. When your child is upset, try to remember that this can be an effective learning opportunity -- you just need to show them how to stay calm.

Look deeper

Instead of getting upset, parents can approach their child's feelings with curiosity. In the article, an Inuit mother explained how it can help parents to look deeper to find out what is bothering their children. Instead of getting upset that your child is angry, try to figure out why your child is acting that way. Take a deep breath and observe the situation as an outsider.

Use storytelling to teach

Even when parents don't match kids’ anger, kids need to understand why certain behavior isn't okay. The Inuit mothers used stories as a teaching tool. Young kids are captivated by stories, making them one of our most powerful parenting tools. Use stories, both proactively and after an outburst, to help your child learn how to regulate emotions. For example, you can tell stories about a child who had meltdowns in the middle of a supermarket, or about how a child ran around the backyard to calm down.

Role play

Listening to stories is one thing, but actively participating in the stories is another. Briggs’s research showed that Inuit parents used performances to help kids regulate their emotions. By using pretend play, parents gently pushed their kids to feel big emotions. For example, you can act out a scene where you repeatedly take a toy away from your child. In that situation, your child may feel upset, even though she knows you are just pretending. But the role play gives your child a chance to practice dealing with her frustration in a productive way.

Learn more: 11 toddler behavior problems and how to handle them

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