Episode #22:

Everything Sets My Kid Off!


Almost all families that reach out to me for support share the same concern – everything sets their kid off. From not having their sandwich cut in a certain way to being told it’s raining so the trip to the playground is postponed to having to skip ipad time because grandma is coming over.

Everything feels like a level 10 catastrophe.

And this makes sense. Kids with immature, growing brains don’t have the experience or reflective capacity yet to “right size” the problems they face. In fact, many adults don’t have that skill yet either, as evidenced by the frequent grown up tantrums I witness at kids’ sporting events.

But there is a tool that can help your child understand how to match their reaction to the size of the struggle.

It’s called Pebble, Rock, Boulder. In essence, you share with your child that some problems are pebbles (a pencil breaking, running out of milk), some are rocks (having a hard time with math, fighting with friends) and some are boulders (natural disasters significant illnesses).

When we are overtired, hungry, or cranky (or 4 years old) pebbles can feel like boulders. The goal (for kids and grown ups!) is to pause, figure out the size of the problem and then give it the reaction it warrants.

On today’s “Good Enough Parenting” podcast I share how and WHEN to teach this concept to your kid (spoiler – we don’t first introduce these ideas when they are having a boulder size reaction to a pebble problem! No one likes to be told they’re overreacting when it FEELS like their world is falling apart, even if in reality it’s just a missing phone charger).

Having this strategy in your parenting toolbox can be a game changer – it makes a very abstract concept concrete, which is what a young brain needs. Instead of yelling in frustration “Don’t get so upset!” we can ask “What size is this problem?”)

Often kids are able to right-size their response on their own, with a little guidance, empathy and support from us. And even if they still boulder size a pebble problem, you’re still planting the seeds of reflection and problem solving, and that’s good enough.