7 Ideas to Turn a Bad Parenting Day Around

Having a bad parenting day? You’re not alone. Check out these ideas to pull yourself out from a bad day you’re having with the kids.

Bad Parenting DayYou can’t wait until bedtime even though it’s barely noon. You have no stamina to set boundaries or discipline. Any little thing pushes your buttons, from your kids not sharing to your toddler forgetting to wash her hands.

No matter the reason, a bad parenting day can feel heavy and frustrating. Sometimes we don’t even bother with switching gears, assuming that the rest of the day will be just as bad. Trying to make things better can even feel unnatural—who’s in the mood to feel warm and loving when we came from a place of anger and overwhelm?

Rest assured friend, you can always turn a bad day around. With some self-reflection, you can make small changes to feel better and end the day on a higher note. And it’s never too late to make this choice, whether it’s barely noon or you’re tucking your kids into bed.

Take a look at these ideas to help you turn a bad parenting day around:

1. Praise the positive

Sometimes the best way to switch gears isn’t to harp on the negative, but to focus on the positive. A few simple ways to praise the positive include:

  • Telling her what you love about her. Simply ask, “Do you know what I love about you?” and list the many ways you do.
  • Giving a hug, even when you’re not exactly in the mood for one. The human touch is so powerful and can instantly melt the anger you both may feel.
  • Praising good behavior. When she’s in her normally good mood, praise her actions: “Look at you, coloring your paper!”
  • Encouraging good manners. If she shouts “Don’t want that!” respond with, “You can say, ‘No, thank you’.”

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2. Give your attention

Imagine your kids with a “tank” that needs refilling to feel good. Nothing fills their tanks more than attention from you. When things get overwhelming, put aside whatever is distracting you and focus completely on them. Usually, their antics are an attempt to get your affection.

You may not always be able to drop everything, nor should you, especially since they also need to learn how to wait. But it’s amazing how much better your day can get and how much more positive your attitudes become when you engage in activities together.

Then, when they’re napping or having quiet time, use that time to read a book, watch a show, or take a nap. The dishes can wait if it means refilling your tank as well.

3. Allow a treat

We don’t get lots of sugary treats at our house, but occasionally, on a difficult day, I’ve been known to ask, “Who wants ice cream?”

It’s less about the ice cream and more about the grace of a treat even though none of us “deserve” it. Grace all around does wonders for attitudes.

Treats don’t have to be sugary food—or food, for that matter—either. Give them a just-for-fun bath where they can paint in the tub. Let them pick several books for you to read together, or play upbeat music to dance to.

4. Change scenes

Feeling stuck in your environment (especially in your own home)? A change of scene can be all it takes to turn a bad parenting day around. Something about fresh air and being in nature can make you feel better.

Get outside, even your yard—fresh air and sunshine can help you feel so much better. Run an errand, call a friend to talk, or grab lunch to take home. Just the act of making new plans can switch gears and help everyone calm down.

5. Move

Even if you can’t get outside, find a way to get moving:

  • Play music and have a dance party.
  • Race from one side of the house to the other.
  • Jump up and down.
  • Make an obstacle course with dining room chairs and couch cushions.

This is especially important if you don’t think they’re getting as much physical activity. Perhaps they’re in front of the computer or the weather has been cold and rainy, leaving you stuck indoors.

6. Get things done together

Sometimes the best way to turn a bad day around is to get a task done. Doesn’t it feel good to know you’ve done something productive? Kids love a sense of accomplishment too!

Empty the dishwasher together, pick up toys from their bedroom floor, or change the sheets. Fold a load of laundry and race the folded clothes to the bedrooms to put them away. Acknowledge the accomplishment and genuinely thank them for helping you.

7. See things from your kids’ perspective

During difficult moments in parenthood, we can place the blame on so many circumstances. We can point the finger at teething or say that lack of sleep has made us unbelievably tired. We could also blame it on our temperaments or that our kids simply don’t listen.

But then it becomes easy to overlook what the world might look like from their perspective. We forget that we have choices and can make them easily (“I want to eat cereal today”) whereas they may not. They don’t always get to decide what clothes to wear or understand why we have to leave the house.

They also may not have reached developmental milestones that enable them to manage emotions like anxiety, guilt, or fear. We overlook that they still can’t express themselves as clearly as we can.

We might even forget that they’re at the age when they realize that the world doesn’t revolve around them. That they’re but one person among many, which can push them to assert themselves more.

Instead, remind yourself that this will pass and that your kids are normally well-behaved. Pick your battles, too—if they want to wear a bib all evening long, let them. Reserve your attention for more important issues like safety and hygiene.

And apologize for your own bad behavior—kids aren’t the only ones who misbehave. Say sorry for your mistakes so they know you make them, too.


These bad days can make you react immaturely and in ways you wouldn’t be proud of. Even after practicing mindful parenting and remaining calm on most days, you can still make mistakes and lose your patience.

Rest assured, you can always repair a bad parenting day.

Praise your kids’ positive behavior and give them the attention they likely crave. Allow a simple treat or change the scenery. Get your bodies moving or do something productive together. And most importantly, see the situation from a different perspective—you can draw more patience and compassion when you do.

And perhaps this can be a gentle reminder that you have your bad days, too—just like your kids.

patient mom

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  1. I am having a difficult time with my 10 year old’s attitude. He gives so much attitude it’s ridiculous. He only does it at home and not at school. We ask him to do something and he starts and we won’t even say it in a bad way.

    We’ll say, “Let’s do your chores,” and he’ll respond “Okay, I know already!” with a nasty attitude, almost yelling. Why is he like that with his dad and I? Please help.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      It’s definitely hard when kids talk back and treat us in less than stellar ways, especially when they don’t do that elsewhere. One thing that has really helped me is to nip it in the bud right away and not tolerate that kind of communication. I wouldn’t snap back at him, because that only escalates his defenses. But you can honestly say that you don’t want to be spoken to that way, that you would never speak to him that way, and that he wouldn’t like it if you spoke to him that way. Help him see how you feel, and how he would feel if he were in your shoes. Continue to model how to speak with respect, and he’ll learn that this is how you communicate in this family.

      In other moments, make sure to celebrate the wonderful ways he talks to you. If he says thank you, truly acknowledge that and say, “You’re welcome!” If he says something kind, say, “Thanks, I really appreciate that.” That way, he knows the kind of communication that you should have at home.

  2. I’m having a hard time keeping calm and happy/positive in front of my son, and also trying not to shout at him. I am working actively to control my mood and to think before acting out. It is of course harder when I am tired or when I have a headache… But I guess I just have to push through, because it is much easier when my son is happy and calm (and my mood certainly affects his). Most challenging scenarios are diaper changes and putting on outdoor clothes.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      I can definitely understand the desire not to stir the pot, as they say, and avoid conflict when possible. In a way, there are a lot of positive aspects to that, like letting things go and picking your battles. But as I’m sure you know, swinging that way too often can lead to chaos and tantrums, especially when the kids seem to take over and rule the household.

      I’d suggest sticking to a few non-negotiable rules for now, the ones that are really important to you, and let the others go. What do you value? What would you hate for him to keep doing years from now? Think about those important issues, then focus on those.

      Also, this is an age where they’re frustrated that they can’t communicate the way they want to and are still so pre-verbal that it can get overwhelming. You can imagine what it’s like going to a new country where you don’t understand the language or customs, and trying to get around with no translator—it’s sort of like that, in the sense that there’s that added frustration of not knowing how to say something or understanding why things are the way they are.