Calm, connect, correct

Staying calm and connecting with our children in the face of difficult behaviour is a key parenting skill which reaps rewards, according to IGS Psychologist Dr Tamara Kezelman.

Dr Kezelman presented as part of the IGS Community Learning Program (CLP) on The Wisdom of Saying No: how and why we should provide boundaries for our children.

“While we really want our kids to be happy, if we prevent them from feeling other types of emotions then we are sending them the wrong message,” Dr Kezelman said.

“It’s okay to feel sad and angry sometimes. A wide range of emotions is the healthiest way to be and so, as difficult as it is, it’s important to let them feel negative emotions as well and not rush in to make it okay immediately.”

In an effort to empathise with children and soothe them in moments of heightened emotion, parents may inadvertently avoid appropriate boundary setting. Parents may feel unable to set those boundaries without an enormous escalation of emotion and behaviour.

“It is a common experience of parents to feel stuck in the face of difficult behaviour,” she said.

Dr Kezelman emphasised the idea that children need to be calm before any disciplinary action or redirection takes place.

“Kids (and adults) can’t think properly if their emotions are so heightened. Taking the time to help to calm your children, connect with them and then think about the appropriate way to manage their behaviour is a much more helpful path to take,” Dr Kezelman said.

“If parents make a concerted effort to help form this association for children, that they can feel upset, find ways to calm down, with and without parental guidance, and then think through the next steps, this will become increasingly a natural process they follow.”

Dr Kezelman explored some guiding principles for setting and maintaining boundaries in a developmentally-appropriate way, centred around the parent-child relationship.

Dr Kezelman explained that boundaries can teach children about:

  • delayed gratification
  • gratitude
  • necessity or boredom being the mother of invention
  • developing their own resources
  • self-discipline, intrinsic motivation
  • social skills
  • how to regulate their needs, such as hunger, tiredness and coping with change
  • how to cope with a range of emotions
  • how to manage anxiety.


Dr Kezelman also explored ideas from “The Circle of Security” parenting program, encouraging parents to “always be bigger, stronger, wiser and kind”.

“Whenever possible, follow the child’s lead, but whenever necessary, take charge.”

The forum conveyed how the relationship between the parent and child is central, and connection and trust is key.

“In general, putting the time into creating that positive, close relationship will probably reduce the likelihood of so many difficult behaviours,” Dr Kezelman said.

Dr Kezelman recommended parents read works by Dr Dan Siegel, which she described as highly informative and helpful.

Dr Kezelman also highlighted an idea from Dr Ross Greene’s work that kids do well, if they can.

“If we can recognise what our children might be struggling with and what their ‘gaps’ are, then we assist in building those skills and ultimately better support their development,” Dr Kezelman said.

The IGS Community Learning Program, sponsored by the IGS Parents, Teachers and Friends Association (PTF), presents leading educational thinkers in a series of informed discussions about current areas of interest in parenting and education.

Click here to listen to the recording of Dr Kezelman’s presentation, The Wisdom of Saying No: how and why we should provide boundaries for our children.

Find out more about our Community Learning Program here.