As a Parent Have YOU Ever Lost Your Cool?

by denny hagel on January 18, 2012


As a parent have YOU ever lost your cool? Have you ever witnessed a parent verbally mistreating their child in public? For me, this is the most uncomfortable feeling …Until recently I was always confused as to how to respond if at all. For the most part I would try to ignore it while in my mind pray for the child.

This past week I posted this article in my Face Book group, "Awakened Parenting Discussion Group" and decided to post it here as well for everyone to read. I believe it provides a positive reminder that we can all learn from. I know I did.

A few months ago I was in a local dept store (Christmas shopping) when I overheard a mom just screaming at her son (about 5). He wanted something and her lack of patience came across extremely hateful. I was mortified. I really don't know what came over me but I found myself going over to the aisle where they were looking at sporting goods. Although her voice had lowered when I entered the aisle they were in, they continued arguing about why her son couldn't have the baseball bat he wanted. I pretended to be looking at some baseball equipment and eventually she looked my way. I said nothing and just smiled at her. Although obviously distraught, she smiled back, nodding as if to say "KIDS!!”

I took the opportunity to respond by asking if SHE was okay. Immediately tears began to appear in her eyes…I could see that she felt bad for the way she had treated her son. I asked her if I could help…was there someone I could call for her. She said no, that she would be okay. A few moments passed as she gathered her emotions and wiped the tears from her cheeks…And then she added, "Just having someone show concern for ME feels good…I know I sounded like a monster but I'm really not. I am alone raising my son and sometimes I just don't feel like I am good enough to do it all. I shouldn't take it out on my son though."

At that point she bent down hugged her son and told him she was so sorry for screaming at him. My heart was breaking for them both.

I quietly went on with my shopping feeling much better about the situation.

About an hour later I was in the checkout line and someone tapped me from behind. It was the same mom. She said, "I just wanted to thank you for smiling at me rather than judging me. It was just the touch of humanity I needed to get my attention as to how I was making my son feel by being so hurtful toward him."

This was a huge lesson for me. I have spent the biggest part of my adult career advocating for children. Through my experiences of focusing so much on the well-being of children I had forgotten that for the most part parents do the best they can. This mom in particular reminded me that even though parents make mistakes, they are human too.  

Do I condone hateful screaming at children? Of course not. But I think we tend to forget that parents need the same thing we advocate for our children…care, support and love. I never realized the most powerful and best tool I have is a simple smile.

For me, from now on, should I witness a parent verbally out of line with their children I won't hesitate to extend a smile and an offer of support…it may be just what is needed to diffuse a negative situation that could escalate to something worse.

Have you ever been in a similar situation? How did you handle it?



Denny Hagel is a child advocate and parenting coach, devoting over 25 years to the success and well being of all children. She is the published author of over 150 articles on parenting, many of which have attracted international attention in over 28 countries.

Denny was blessed with forward thinking parents who raised her with an understanding of her value as an individual, her innate power to choose by way of her thoughts, ideas, opinions and beliefs, thus, instilling in her a strong sense of personal responsibility for what happens in our lives

She is the founder of Awakened Parenting LLC, a company dedicated to helping parents release parenting paradigms of the past and consciously choose to raise their children to approach life with a positive mindset and strong sense of self. It is Denny’s passion to combine what she learned through her formal education in early childhood education and psychology and what her parents instilled in her and pass this on to all parents.

Denny has created the discussion group "Awakened Parenting Discussion Forum" on Face Book which now has nearly 600 members.  She does on line coaching with parents and teachers who consult her on a regular basis. Denny collaborates with counselors, authors, coaches and others working in the parent coaching field. Denny Hagel is the author of the newly published "The Missing Secret to Parenting", "The C.P.R. Program for Parents & Teens: Conflict Prevention/Resolution Formula", "Mini-Me Syndrome" and two free e-booklets Parenting Using the Law of Attraction and Becoming an Awakened Parent".


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  • AD VirtualAssistance

    Sadly I did 
    witness a parent verbally mistreating their children in public..Denny, thanks for sharing this post with us!

  • Olga Hermans

    Denny, this story really touched my heart.  Although I have never done what you did, but this is exactly what I will do next time. I always felt so sorry for a situation like that and I know people need help. We better step out like you did! Thanks!

  • Donovan Grant

    Awesome story Denny. Care, support and love is so important for parents too! Just because we are grow up doesn’t mean the we stop being human and experiencing challenges in life. That’s a great message about how a simple smile can make a big fifference to a strangers day!!

  • Carol Giambri

    Denny, yes, yes.  Too often seen parents lose their cool. It didn’t have to be spanking cool, but emotional damage–name calling they do.  Parents many times don’t realize the emotional scars by emotional abuse.  Yikes. Thanks.

  • Claudia Looi

    Wow, I’ve just learned a lesson here Denny. This statement goes deep for me “I
    just wanted to thank you for smiling at me rather than judging me. It
    was just the touch of humanity I needed to get my attention as to how I
    was making my son feel by being so hurtful toward him.” Thank you.

  • Jennifer Bennett

    Love this Denny!  What a difference we can make in the life of someone by just offering our help rather than our judgement. I think every parent has lost it at one point or another and many times, they just need a tender word from someone, someone telling them that it’s going to be ok. I’m so impressed with you and your heart Denny!  You are impacting the lives of many! 

  • Solvita

    Thank you Denny, love this article. We as parents want the best for our children, but so often neglect our own needs… and feel stressed, not good enough, tired, angry, resentful… and children are like mirrors, so they usually feel our energy well, the last thing needed here is to add negativity… and so smile, encouraging voice and acceptance with love are the best medicine to help someone rise above and gain control over the emotions… You are so brilliant Denny! :)

  • Michele M Tremblay

     One thing I am particularly sensitive to is when children are crying in the grocery store. Often, I think the parents get overwhelmed because they think others will be critical but because they need the groceries, they must stay and finish the job of shopping. When my twins were babies, I found myself in that position more than once. It never felt good to have the disapproval of the other patrons. Your solution to offer a smile is just brilliant. 

  • Dee

    What a fabulous post Denny. I loved how much you showed you cared instead of judging this poor woman. As a mum myself I know that I have been guilty of taking my frustrations out on my children. We can only do the best job we can and just be mindful of our behaviour. If we don’t like how we treat our children them it is up to us to change it. Thanks to you Denny for helping parents to do this. Keep up your amazing work.
    Dee :) xo

  • Anonymous

    What a beautiful story, Denny! I had tears in my eyes when I read that she came up to you to thank you. Great job for making a difference in that mom’s life. Parenting is such a hard job when you are married and have support, I can’t imagine doing it by myself!

  • Diane Dolinsky-Pickar

    Denny, this was a really powerful story, because I have been that screaming mother, albeit more often at home than in public (although I have lost my cool there, too, on occasion!. You are so right… just exhibiting concern for the parent can make a parent feel better. Recently, I had a situation where a friend told me what a laggard I was for not doing something that she deemed essential. In fact, in my approach to parenting–and there are plenty of different, valid approaches–I think that there are many ways to handle kids, and many different approaches can be effective. So, let’s all lighten up and try to see what others are doing as a reflection of their choices, and not a screen by which to judge them. I think your story reinforces this notion, rigidity will get us no where. Mutual support is where its at. As we step in and support parents as well as kids, we will all be better off.

  • Naomi

    I have not been in this type of situation but I always kind of give an empathetic smile to the parent. It is not nice losing it. I have in the past once offered advice to a parent  – ie suggested a different approach and they were happy to recieve it.

  • Denny Hagel

    Thanks for sharing your insights Diane, I can’t help but think about Hilary Clinton’s words…”it takes a village”…we as parents need all the support we can get!

  • Denny Hagel

    I appreciate your kind word Dee:)

  • Denny Hagel

    Thanks for commenting Michele…I totally agree that many times the fear of being judged is what is at the core of the frustration. There really is so much power in a smile:)

  • Denny Hagel

    Well said Solvita! Thanks for commenting and for the kind words!

  • Denny Hagel

    You have made my day with such kind words Jennifer! Thank you.

  • Denny Hagel

    I appreciate your insights Donovan. Thanks for stopping by and commenting:)

  • Denny Hagel

    I agree Carol, especially that many parents don’t realize the impact they have on their children…BUT it is my intention and passion to change that with as many parents as I can!!!

  • Denny Hagel

    Glad to hear that this impacted you and motivates you to offer the same! WooHoo!

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