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Good Parenting Includes Teaching Your Kids Some Physics


By Valerie Maxwell, Ph.D.

Good parenting entails the ability to set boundaries, firm yet loving limits. But what happens when the emotion inside those boundaries threatens to explode? "I hate having to go to bed. I won't do it!" When a child is angry, anxious, or overactive, the limits may get dangerously pushed. Besides setting the reward for obeying and the consequence for not obeying (a behavioral program), what can a parent do?

This is when parents need some knowledge of basic physics! You can't always stifle the energy of kids, but you can funnel and redirect it. Here are some easy techniques for redirecting the energy.

1. The Angry Corner. You can calmly ask the child to work out the frustration in their "Angry" corner - a pre-arranged place (preferably on linoleum) where you have placed materials that can be safely used to get out "angry energy." Parents and kids can have fun selecting and setting up this place. You may get butcher paper for big signs designating the spot. Materials can include:

  • Marshmallows (for harmless and fun fighting)

  • Crayons (especially red) and paper for frantic coloring and drawing

  • Old paper for ripping

  • Squirt guns (outside only, warm weather)

  • Nerf bats

  • Pillows for throwing and screaming into

  • Clay and a rubber mallet for pounding

  • Art supplies ("Draw your anger; paint your energy")

  • Musical instruments for banging

Set these up at the discretion of your own noise and mess tolerance. Anyone can take time-outs in the frustration corner. Remember, negative energy can be transformed into fun and relaxation.

2. The Energy Dance. This is a dance the child originates by simply wiggling, kicking, hopping, and rolling all around to express energy as well as any feeling it may be representing. An adult can get behind the child, and join in the dance through immitation (kind of like the Conga). Dance 'til you drop, or at least some laughs emerge...No judgement. No analysis. Just movement! When you transform the feeling, the energy can be positive and help build self-esteem. Remind your child that you know physics and that they can learn it too! But most of all, have fun!

Valerie Maxwell is a psychologist. She is the director of ADD Counseling and Testing in Manhattan Beach, CA.

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