As parents, learning to control our own behavior influences our children and their actions. When parents and children feel out of control at the same time, a caring and constructive interaction is rarely the outcome.

One way to stay connected to both feeling and being in control is to practice relaxation techniques. It is nearly impossible to be relaxed and out of control at the same time. One technique includes taking three long deep breaths to help stay in control. These breaths are especially helpful if done at the front end of emotional buildup rather than waiting until emotions are strong.

Regularly practicing relaxation is also very helpful because practice lowers the resting level of tension, so that we are less likely to lose control when something stressful happens. One method of practice involves setting aside ten minutes each day, or twice each day, to practice deep muscle relaxation. Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and then tense and relax different muscle groups in your body. Tense the muscles in your forehead, for example, and then relax them. Move on down through your body in the same way, tensing and relaxing the muscles in your jaw, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, trunk, abdomen, hips, legs, and feet. The contrast of tensing and then relaxing gives you a stronger sense of what relaxation feels like.

You are also more likely to be in charge of your emotions if you are telling yourself all will be OK. Your brain listens in and responds to what you say to yourself, so if your self-talk sounds like “This kid is getting on my nerves!” it will intensify your anger. If you want to stay in control of yourself and your emotions, it will be much more helpful to say to yourself, “OK, calm down, breathe, feel relaxed. You are the parent . . . you are under control.”

When you use relaxation and self-talk effectively, they will help you control your own behavior, and staying under control allows you to be a better problem solver and a positive role model for your children.