4 Steps Parents Need to Handle Even the Most Challenging Behaviors

Inside: We cannot avoid storms in life. You ARE going to deal with your kids’ meltdowns, arguments with your spouse, having your kid screaming “I hate you” and breaking things, and other challenging situations. However, we can prepare for them and get through them with minimal damage. In this week’s episode, I’m sharing a 4-step Ride-The-Storm plan that can help you survive the eye of the storm and remain calm during your kid’s most challenging behaviors.

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Facing your child’s most challenging behaviors is devastating for any parent. 

In those dark moments, it’s normal to feel afraid, hopeless, embarrassed, and even angry. 

We find ourselves questioning everything, wondering “how did we get here?” and “why is this happening to me?” and we start spiraling. 

During one of my family’s hardest days, I was convinced Jason would divorce me… Seriously.

He took our daughter and drove off to his parents’ place. 

And I believed our marriage was over.

It could have been. 

However, we soon realized that it’s crucial not to let these emotions take over. Because it obviously doesn’t lead to anything good.

In life, we cannot avoid storms like this one. 

You are going to deal with your kids’ meltdowns, arguments with your spouse, having your child screaming “I hate you” and breaking things, and many other wildly challenging situations.

However, we can prepare for them and get through them with minimal damage. Therefore, in this week’s episode, I am sharing a 4-step Ride-The-Storm plan that can help you survive the eye of the storm and remain calm during epic tantrums, outbursts, and meltdowns.

And when you change the way you show up – that’s when the transformation begins

Developing a plan using the Calm the Chaos Framework can help you prepare for inevitable challenges, minimize the damage, and keep everyone safe and connected.

We will show you how to create a plan for surviving tough moments, whether it’s a fight over electronics, a disagreement with your spouse, or navigating your kids’ latest knock-down fight. 

Let’s dive in!

I Thought My Marriage Was Over

Back to the day that I thought my marriage was over…

What actually happened… My oldest son, who was around 7 or 8 at the time, had yet another massive meltdown. 

This time, our 18-month-old daughter got caught in the crossfire.

It all happened so fast – one moment, my son was playing in the room, and everything was ok. Jason stepped away for a second, and when he came back into the room, my son was yelling at the baby with his hand raised to punch her.

That was the moment when Jason scooped up our daughter, loaded the car, and took off to his parents’ place. I didn’t know if he was ever coming back. I thought that was the end of us. 

Despite his love for me and our family, I knew my husband was considering divorce just to free himself of the constant chaos. Because that was the real issue – it wasn’t the ‘one’ incident… it was the constant chaos, inescapable survival mode, and perpetual fear.

What Does Survival Mode Look Like?

We were in survival mode for months, and it was exhausting. 

I know there are millions of families going through the same thing, but they all think they’re the only ones struggling with this. Besides feeling overwhelmed, it also brings on loneliness, guilt, and shame, which only makes the situation worse.

But listen up, you’re not the only one facing this. Jason and I have been there too. In my Calm the Chaos System, we call this stage “Survive the Storm”, and parents and kids are the most vulnerable during this time.

When we were in Surviving the Storm, Jason and I were constantly fighting over how to parent… and pretty much everything else. We couldn’t even have a normal conversation.

I couldn’t leave our home just to go to the grocery store, we couldn’t leave the kids in the same room together without us. We were constantly walking on eggshells, waiting for the next big explosion to go off. 

We were living in a minefield.

Every bit of energy we had was consumed with one goal: survival.

All self-care needs went out the window, even the bare minimum… bathing. We were going weeks without taking a shower. It was just too difficult to find a safe 10-minute window to clean ourselves.

Jason would go to work knowing he didn’t smell good. One day, his boss called him in and said, “I know things are tough at home… but you need to shower. It’s affecting other people.” So Jason went home to take a shower when the kids were out.

Yeah, it was that bad…

So, if you’re in that place right now, I just want to let you know that you’re not alone, and you’re not failing because your family is going through this tough time. 

There’s a way out, and today we’re going to explore that path together.

The Survive the Storm Stage

At this stage, we call you a determined survivor.

Because you are. 

Your number one goal is to get everyone to safety, including yourself. Forget about trying to fix or minimize the behavior you’re seeing. It’s all about making sure everyone is physically, emotionally, and mentally safe.

When the storm hits (like when my son had that major meltdown), we say and do things we’re not proud of, and we feel defenseless, desperate, and vulnerable. (I mean, it’s just the reality of living with a child who has aggression.)

It’s also really easy to fall into traps because, let’s be honest, we have no idea what to do, and we’re trying everything we can. (I’ll just quickly mention some of the common pitfalls, but if you want to learn more, check out episode 4 of the podcast.)

challenging behaviors, Dayna Abraham

One trap is thinking there’s some kind of magical solution that will fix the problem during a meltdown or trying to mentor and coach your kid to find alternative ways to meet their needs in the heat of the moment. But the truth is, all you’re doing is adding fuel to the fire.

Another trap (and it’s pretty common advice when you’re in survival mode) is matching your child’s emotions and tone. 

Like, if your kid yells, “I hate you,” you should say, “I hear that you’re upset,” with the same angry tone. But that only makes things worse because your child just thinks you’re angry, too.

And then there’s the trap of resorting to punishments, threats, or bribes. Saying things like, “Stop crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about,” only drives a wedge between you and your child.

So, these are some of the traps. But what’s the plan for riding out the storm? 

Our Ride-The-Storm plan is all about focusing on YOU, not your kid. ‘Cause when you’re in the middle of a breakdown, a meltdown, a fight, or some other catastrophe, there’s only one person you can control – and that’s you.

The 4 You-Cue Steps

The Ride-The-Storm plan is based on the four steps of the You-Cue framework – you, connect, understand, and empower. 

These steps are simple to follow, and involve helpful actions you can take when your kid is shouting, “I hate you!”, throwing the remote at you, dragging their feet in the morning, oversleeping for school, refusing to go to bed, or (you name it)…


The first step is about taking a moment to reset and ground yourself before entering a challenging situation. 

It’s as simple as taking a deep breath, placing your hand over your heart, and anchoring yourself in something that is going to tell your brain you are safe. Something like… “We are okay – this is just a moment.”

Without this small pause, you might rush in, anger first, and make things worse.


Connection is all about paying attention to your own body signals in the midst of a storm. Are you projecting a sense of safety or danger?

One simple way to check is to see if you’re clenching your jaw. Most people do this unconsciously in moments of stress. Other signs of danger include furrowed brows, frowning, raised shoulders, crossed arms, exasperated sighs, and a tense body.

So just do a quick body scan and loosen your body and face. Even without saying a word, that can send signals of connection and safety to your child.


Step three is all about getting curious and trying to understand what’s really going on. 

Resist every urge to interrogate your kids in the middle of the storm. Why is this happening? Why are you doing that? What’s going on? Tell me more. Can you explain this? Forget that – that’s not going to help anyone. 

Instead, remind yourself that all behavior is a form of communication, and there’s always something deeper going on beneath the surface. When your kid is throwing a fit, they’re really saying, “Hey, I need your help, but I don’t know how to tell you.” or even “I know I need something, but I don’t know what it is yet!”

It’s important to pause and listen – without making assumptions or jumping to conclusions. Just stay open and curious.


When dealing with conflicts with our kids, such as battles over electronics, homework, or siblings fighting, it’s easy to get caught up in all the negative things that are happening. But that negativity easily becomes quicksand… and that’s where we get stuck.

Instead, shift your focus to the wins. Even the smallest ones.

It can be tough, but it’s important to keep in mind that things are working out in our favor. It’ll help you start to see progress. 

Maybe this time, the storm lasted five minutes less than last time. Maybe you stopped to take the anger out of your facial expression, or didn’t yell. Hey, that’s progress!

It’s not toxic positivity. You’re not ignoring the fact that things aren’t going well. You’re just recognizing these baby steps that become your anchor. Like, okay, we are making forward progress here. It is not all devastation.

Over time, you’ll be able to look back and see how far you’ve come taking (and appreciating) these small steps.


Your next baby step could be practicing a simple calming technique – the hand-over-heart breath exercise.

Just take a moment, take a deep breath, place your hand over your heart, and exhale. Deep breathing is backed by science – it will help reset your nervous system. You don’t even have to be upset for it to work! 

This technique can anchor you and remind you that you’re not alone, and that you can handle whatever comes your way.

Give it a try… You’ll feel the difference.  

And then try it the next time a storm hits.

Remember, you got this!


– – –

Calm the Chaos Parenting is a podcast offering parents practical tools and strategies to navigate the challenges of raising strong-willed, highly sensitive, and neurodivergent children.

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1 thought on “4 Steps Parents Need to Handle Even the Most Challenging Behaviors”

  1. This article provides helpful tips for parents on how to handle challenging behaviors in children. The four steps mentioned are easy to understand and implement, and can help parents approach difficult situations with their child in a positive way. Overall, a great resource for parents looking for practical advice.

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