Expert Parenting Advice
Practical parenting tips and advice from experts around the world

Elephants vs Lions

Why you need to learn how to stay calm if you want your children to stay calm. And what not do to do when your child is upset or throwing a tantrum.



A while back I watched a fascinating documentary that followed a herd of elephants as they migrated across Africa.

In one scene, the herd is traveling through a lion pride's territory.

The elephants had just crossed a desert, they were tired and dehydrated, and they had several young calves with them. Now, lions can't do much to a big elephant, but a young elephant calf is a tempting target.

During the day, the lions constantly circled the herd, staying just out of their reach but constantly making themselves known, growling and dialing up the pressure.

Then, night fell. It was a dark, moonless night. Quiet, except for the sound of lions growling in the dark.

The elephants tried to continue walking through the night, sensing the danger and not wanting to rest with the lions around.

Then suddenly...chaos! The lions attacked. They started roaring, darting in and out of the herd.

The elephants started panicking. And the more the big elephants panicked, the more scared the calves became. Suddenly, the calves started bolting in different directions. Elephant mothers were trumpeting to their babies, calling them back. But the whole herd was in disarray, and the lions were roaring and attacking.

Watching this documentary, and especially this scene, made me think about when my own kids start throwing tantrums.

Usually, when I am able to stay calm, it is easy for my kids to calm down. But when I also get upset or emotional, then soon the whole situation spins out of control and everyone ends up upset and unhappy.

When I interviewed Judy Arnall for our book "How To Get Kids To Listen," she shared why the first step to getting your kids to to calm down yourself. Because when you are calm, your child also naturally becomes calmer. But the more upset you get, the more emotional your child gets.

I always advocate that parents need to be calm first, because we have a lot more practice calming ourselves down, and someone needs to be in control...rather than putting your child in time-out, you take a break, whether it’s taking deep breaths or just having a five-minute cup of tea, to get a grip on yourself.

Judy Arnall

Judy Arnall is a best selling author of 5 books, including Disciplining Without Distress, and in our interview she shared some of her best techniques for calming down yourself and your child when they are upset or throwing a tantrum.

In the interview, Judy also shares what happens inside your child's brain when they are throwing a tantrum, and why punishment or getting mad only makes the situation worse.