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Parenthood Challenges and How to Cope With Them

Andromeda Peters, LICSW

Parenthood is described as a beautiful experience, but it comes with its own set of challenges as we assist our children in navigating the world of emotions. Parenthood is far from concrete, as it is a job that evolves as our children grow in and out of development stages from infancy into adulthood. This role constantly requires relearning and flexibility because we are preparing our children for socialization, processing emotions, and healthy communication.

Strategies for Problem-Solving

Susan Newman, Ph.D., author of Positive Parenting, covers how to address aggression, tantrums, whining, not listening, and back talk among children. Dr. Newman highlights the importance of not meeting aggression with aggression. This points out the role of modeling behavior for our children. Dr. Newman suggests removing the child from the environment that triggered them by utilizing a “time in,” placing the child on your lap or near you to help the child get out of flight or fight mode. I often remind clients that flight or fight mode is a trauma response so the focus should always be on regulating the central nervous system. After regulation is the crucial time to problem solve with the child, which teaches children how to negotiate and voice their needs early on. When I explain this to clients, I refer to this as the term used in trauma in therapy: “the bottom-up approach,” which is to ground first and problem solve after regulation.

Strategies for Responding to Tantrums

Dr. Newman addresses tantrums and recommends that we remove the thought process of correlating tantrums to manipulation by reminding us that there are different types of tantrums and that tantrums are the result of children being overwhelmed by their emotions. Young children do not always have the proper vocabulary to voice their needs and emotions, as their frontal cortices are still developing. Newman encourages setting limits around hitting but also supports exploring the reason behind your child’s behavior. Newman recommends the same explorative response to whining while encouraging using a “strong voice.”

Strategies for When Your Child Doesn’t Listen 

Not listening can tempt us to lecture. However, it is recommended that we instead make requests over asking questions, and firmly give a reasonable amount of time to do so, while making sure we keep positive bonds with our children so that there is a willingness to want to cooperate. Backtalk is another challenging area to navigate. Our instinctive reactions may leave us in a space of defense if we feel disrespected, even by our own children. Yet, Newman brings back the handy dandy explorative approach. This is especially significant so our children can learn negotiation skills. 

Strategies for Back Talk

In caring for children in my own family, experiencing back talk can leave us in a space of frustration, but remembering to meet our children where they are and taking interest in their way of thinking is of value. We can do this by asking our children why what they are sharing is important to them to encourage healthy dialogue. However, boundaries are always a must. There can sometimes be what I like to call “a hard no.” If this is the case, Newman recommends using a firm tone informing our children that we have already given our answer and encouraging our children to take breaks and come back to us if they are not able to comply at the moment.

A great summarization of the above for me falls under the category of “an empathy-based approach,” coined by psychologist Dr. Emily Edlynn. This means that, rather than punish unwanted behavior, we seek to understand our children. This is a very similar approach to a therapist/client relationship. We begin by establishing rapport and utilizing this as a foundation to be curious about a client’s thought processes and emotions while offering guidance in our areas of expertise. By seeking to understand our clients, trust forms which create space for dialogue and education. This means that with our children, it is advantageous that we as parents, make sure that we are as grounded as possible before reacting to the behaviors of our children.

I defer back to the bottom-up approach: grounding before we act. When we are not having a trauma-based response, we are operating from spaces in our minds that allow us to exercise more compassion and negotiation, and remain collected when boundary setting, rather than being overly reactive to our children. As we help our children to navigate their emotions, although we are human, it is recommended to model the behaviors that we are encouraging as best as we can. Rather than striving for perfection within our children, psychologist Karin Coifman states that it is detrimental for children to be allowed space to process all their emotions. I refer to this as a healthy range of emotional expression in therapy sessions. However, when it comes to our children, we are also teaching children how to regulate emotions, process emotions, and vocalize emotions and needs.

If you would like to learn more strategies for coping with parenthood challenges, our counselors are here to help. Explore our counseling services online, including individual counseling and family counseling, and contact Symmetry today to schedule an appointment for therapy in Washington D.C., Chicago, and Phoenix


The Challenges of Positive Parenting. Retrieved from on July 16, 2020.

Five Top Parenting Challenges and How to Deal With Them. Retrieved from on May 24, 2016.

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