The journey of parenting can be filled with blissful joy and excitement. Your child grows and changes before your eyes!  Every developmental stage can offer new joys but also new challenges.   At one moment it can be all smiles and giggles and in the next crying, kicking or even hitting! We all know the pull your hair out moments when trying to deal with challenging behaviors.  What we need to know is how to help our children during those challenging situations and provide them with their own tool box of skills to handle their emotions!  Creating a simple and consistent routine can help young children deescalate quicker and decrease negative behaviors!  Too good to be true….not at all!  FLIP IT is a research based strategy that helps your child express feelings appropriately while setting limits!


How to FLIP IT:

Step 1: Recognize FEELINGS

  • FEELINGS are the root of all behavior! Children don’t always understand their negative feelings. Naming the FEELING will help them understand their emotions and prevent the negative behavior from occurring again. The FEELING step can take as little as 10 seconds!

Ways to recognize FEELINGS:

  • “I see you are doing  .  I wonder if your feeling           ?”
  • “Wow, it looks like you are feeling ?
  • “I’m sorry you are feeling ?

Step 2: Set loving LIMITS

  • Remind children of LIMITS and your expectations. LIMITS provide the needed consistency, safety, and trust that your child needs to develop positive behavior.

Ways to set LIMITS:

  • “I hear you saying unfriendly words. I wonder if you are feeling ?  We use kind words in this home.”
  • “I’m sorry you are feeling so ? Our hands are not for hitting, we use gentle touches here. 


Step 3: Make INQUIRIES

  • INQUIRIES are important questions that help children stop and think through frustrating and difficult situations. It is beneficial for the child to help be part of the solution with the guidance of the parent. It sends the message that you believe in them!

Ways to INQUIRE:

  • “How can we fix this?”
  • What is a friendly way you could ?

Step 4: Provide PROMPTS

  • PROMPTS will help your child see other solutions! Giving cues and suggestions help children find their own answers. Providing positive solutions will help them make a good choice that will build their problem solving confidence! 

Ways to provide PROMPTS:

  • “What do you think you could do instead? We could read a book or look for treasures.”
  • What is a friendlier way we could ask each other? Maybe use a quieter voice.”

Now you have it, a commonsense, four-step strategy to use when dealing with your child’s challenging behavior!  Click on the link below to see FLIP IT in action!  Don’t forget to check out the Growing Sound website ( for songs that help children connect positively to their emotions.

Sarah Zawaly has been working with young children, parents and teachers for a number of years in multiple capacities; teacher, therapist, preschool consultant, and coach. She has her MSW and is currently working at Children, Inc. in the Innovation Lab.