Toxic People: 12 Things They Do and How to Deal with Them

The 12 Things Toxic People Do and How to Deal With Them

We have all had toxic people dust us with their poison. Sometimes it’s more like a drenching. Difficult people are drawn to the reasonable ones and all of us have likely had (or have) at least one person in our lives who have us bending around ourselves like barbed wire in endless attempts to please them – only to never really get there.

Their damage lies in their subtlety and the way they can engender that classic response, ‘It’s not them, it’s me.’ They can have you questioning your ‘over-reactiveness’, your ‘oversensitivity’, your ‘tendency to misinterpret’. If you’re the one who’s continually hurt, or the one who is constantly adjusting your own behaviour to avoid being hurt, then chances are that it’s not you and it’s very much them.

Being able to spot their harmful behaviour is the first step to minimising their impact. You might not be able to change what they do, but you can change what you do with it, and any idea that toxic somebody in your life might have that they can get away with it.

There are plenty of things toxic people do to manipulate people and situations to their advantage. Here are 12 of them. Knowing them will help you to avoid falling under the influence:

  1. They’ll keep you guessing about which version of them you’re getting.

    They’ll be completely lovely one day and the next you’ll be wondering what you’ve done to upset them. There often isn’t anything obvious that will explain the change of attitude – you just know something isn’t right. They might be prickly, sad, cold or cranky and when you ask if there’s something wrong, the answer will likely be ‘nothing’ – but they’ll give you just enough  to let you know that there’s something. The ‘just enough’ might be a heaving sigh, a raised eyebrow, a cold shoulder. When this happens, you might find yourself making excuses for them or doing everything you can to make them happy. See why it works for them?

    Stop trying to please them. Toxic people figured out a long time ago that decent people will go to extraordinary lengths to keep the people they care about happy. If your attempts to please aren’t working or aren’t lasting for very long, maybe it’s time to stop. Walk away and come back when the mood has shifted. You are not responsible for anybody else’s feelings. If you have done something unknowingly to hurt somebody, ask, talk about it and if need be, apologise. At any rate, you shouldn’t have to guess.

  1. They’ll manipulate.

    If you feel as though you’re the only one contributing to the relationship, you’re probably right. Toxic people have a way of sending out the vibe that you owe them something. They also have a way of taking from you or doing something that hurts you, then maintaining they were doing it all for you. This is particularly common in workplaces or relationships where the balance of power is out. ‘I’ve left that six months’ worth of filing for you. I thought you’d appreciate the experience and the opportunity to learn your way around the filing cabinets.’ Or, ‘I’m having a dinner party. Why don’t you bring dinner. For 10. It’ll give you a chance to show off those kitchen skills. K?’

    You don’t owe anybody anything. If it doesn’t feel like a favour, it’s not. 

  1. They won’t own their feelings.

    Rather than owning their own feelings, they’ll act as though the feelings are yours. It’s called projection, as in projecting their feelings and thoughts onto you. For example, someone who is angry but won’t take responsibility for it might accuse you of being angry with them. It might be as subtle as, ‘Are you okay with me?’ or a bit more pointed, ‘Why are you angry at me,’ or, ‘You’ve been in a bad mood all day.’

    You’ll find yourself justifying and defending and often this will go around in circles – because it’s not about you. Be really clear on what’s yours and what’s theirs. If you feel as though you’re defending yourself too many times against accusations or questions that don’t fit, you might be being projected on to. You don’t have to explain, justify or defend yourself or deal with a misfired accusation. Remember that.

  1. They’ll make you prove yourself to them.

    They’ll regularly put you in a position where you have to choose between them and something else – and you’ll always feel obliged to choose them. Toxic people will wait until you have a commitment, then they’ll unfold the drama.  ‘If you really cared about me you’d skip your exercise class and spend time with me.’  The problem with this is that enough will never be enough. Few things are fatal – unless it’s life or death, chances are it can wait.

    [irp posts=”1195″ name=”Toxic People: 16 Practical, Powerful Ways to Deal With Them”]


  2. They never apologise. 

    They’ll lie before they ever apologise, so there’s no point arguing. They’ll twist the story, change the way it happened and retell it so convincingly that they’ll believe their own nonsense.

    People don’t have to apologise to be wrong. And you don’t need an apology to move forward. Just move forward – without them. Don’t surrender your truth but don’t keep the argument going. There’s just no point. Some people want to be right more than they want to be happy and you have better things to do than to provide fodder for the right-fighters.

  1. They’ll be there in a crisis but they’ll never ever share your joy.

    They’ll find reasons your good news isn’t great news. The classics: About a promotion – ‘The money isn’t that great for the amount of work you’ll be doing.’ About a holiday at the beach – ‘Well it’s going to be very hot. Are you sure you want to go?’ About being made Queen of the Universe – ‘Well the Universe isn’t that big you know and I’m pretty sure you won’t get tea breaks.’ Get the idea? Don’t let them dampen you or shrink you down to their size. You don’t need their approval anyway – or anyone else’s for that matter.

  2. They’ll leave a conversation unfinished – and then they’ll go offline.

    They won’t pick up their phone. They won’t answer texts or emails. And in between rounds of their voicemail message, you might find yourself playing the conversation or argument over and over in your head, guessing about the status of the relationship, wondering what you’ve done to upset them, or whether they’re dead, alive or just ignoring you – which can sometimes all feel the same. People who care about you won’t let you go on feeling rubbish without attempting to sort it out. That doesn’t mean you’ll sort it out of course, but at least they’ll try. Take it as a sign of their investment in the relationship if they leave you ‘out there’ for lengthy sessions.

  3. They’ll use non-toxic words with a toxic tone.

    The message might be innocent enough but the tone conveys so much more. Something like, ‘What did you do today?’ can mean different things depending on the way it’s said. It could mean anything from ‘So I bet you did nothing – as usual,’ to ‘I’m sure your day was better than mine. Mine was awful. Just awful. And you didn’t even notice enough to ask.’ When you question the tone, they’ll come back with, ‘All I said was what did you do today,’ which is true, kind of, not really.

  4. They’ll bring irrelevant detail into a conversation.

    When you’re trying to resolve something important to you, toxic people will bring in irrelevant detail from five arguments ago. The problem with this is that before you know it, you’re arguing about something you did six months ago, still defending yourself, rather than dealing with the issue at hand. Somehow, it just always seems to end up about what you’ve done to them. 

  5. They’ll make it about the way you’re talking, rather than what you’re talking about.

    You might be trying to resolve an issue or get clarification and before you know it, the conversation/ argument has moved away from the issue that was important to you and on to the manner in which you talked about it – whether there is any issue with your manner or not. You’ll find yourself defending your tone, your gestures, your choice of words or the way you belly moves when you breathe – it doesn’t even need to make sense. Meanwhile, your initial need is well gone on the pile of unfinished conversations that seems to grow bigger by the day.

    [irp posts=”1762″ name=”When Someone You Love is Toxic: How to Let Go of Toxic People, Without Guilt”]


  6. They exaggerate.

    ‘You always …’ ‘You never …’ It’s hard to defend yourself against this form of manipulation. Toxic people have a way of drawing on the one time you didn’t or the one time you did as evidence of your shortcomings. Don’t buy into the argument. You won’t win. And you don’t need to.

  7. They are judgemental.

    We all get it wrong sometimes but toxic people will make sure you know it. They’ll judge you and take a swipe at your self-esteem suggesting that you’re less than because you made a mistake. We’re all allowed to get it wrong now and then, but unless we’ve done something that affects them nobody has the right to stand in judgement.

Knowing the favourite go-to’s for toxic people will sharpen your radar, making the manipulations easier to spot and easier to name. More importantly, if you know the characteristic signs of a toxic person, you’ll have a better chance of catching yourself before you tie yourself in double knots trying to please them.

Some people can’t be pleased and some people won’t be good for you – and many times that will have nothing to do with you. You can always say no to unnecessary crazy. Be confident and own your own faults, your quirks and the things that make you shine. You don’t need anyone’s approval but remember if someone is working hard to manipulate, it’s because probably because they need yours. You don’t always have to give it but if you do, don’t let the cost be too high. 



Well I have a boyfriend and we have been together for 2 and 5months but thoes two years we weren’t together,he was living in the states so we were on a long distance relationship but then he came to his country where I also live there it was nice the first couple of weeks but then he started to spend more time with his toxic ass family and friends so he always gets mad at me for silly things he tries to manipulate me when arguing by saying that he came all the way just for me weather it’s my fault or not.almost everyday he asks me aggressively to meet up with my family or else he won’t be sure if I love him truly lol I know this sounds so funny but the long am with him the less I love him so I think everything that he does is toxic he also don’t get happy when I get to chill with my friends without him he brings up the silly bad things that they did long long ago and am sick of it


Thank you for sharing this. I grew up with a narcissistic mother. I attracted many narcissist, “mother figures” in my life, and domineering friends. After I dated and narcissist man who caused much pain. I left the relationship and, I realized I had to put an end to this. I began to learn all that I could, and I got counseling, and grew stronger. I don’t have many friends in my life anymore. Just two, but they are quality friends. Now, I no longer have to separate myself from toxic people, they leave quickly. I think once they realize that you will not put up with disrespect and their nonsense they move on to find others who are more willing. It seems they are so anxious to wreck havoc in the lives of others, they can’t rest without it. But if don’t participate in their craziness, then they have nothing to work with. Keep learning, growing, and spending time with positive people, even if that only person is a book, podcast, encouraging videos etc., don’t give up.


This is a really good article, and has helping my sneaking suspicion on this one friend, I met her a year ago, and she was so nice, interesting, energetic and humble, but the thing that got me a few months later, was that when I met her, I was trying to introduce myself to another person, who I’d apparently known as a young child. Turns out, I didn’t connect with the person I was aiming for, I got sidetracked by her “friend” who she didn’t seem comfortable with at all. That should have been a red flag at the time, but it wasn’t. I was distracted by her friend.
The friendship was great at the start, but unbeknownst to me at the time, she was slowly changing my behavior, and views on things. She consistently made me bend over backwards to give her attention, because she was “messed up, unstable, depressed, anxious, maltreated by others, etc” she CONSTANTLY played the victim, and when we were caught in our shenanigans, the blame was always on me, despite her being the one who started everything. She always covertly told me there was so much wrong with me, all the while telling me I was perfect and the only one who could help her. She would guilt-trip me and others, and constantly make drama for attention. She also had this habit of complaining about people she was friends with, which was just confusing. One particular instance, she had been texting back and forth with a friend, who had feelings for me, I’d already figured it out, and did not feel the same way towards him, she knew I didn’t feel the same, yet consistently asked questions about whether I wanted a relationship or not, if I was “emotionally ready” to be in a relationship again. I knew it was so she could tell the guy that he could ask me out, after months of feeding him relationship advice, dating advice, and lots of information on me. I knew this because she’d message and email him while sitting right next to or in front of me. I could easily see what she was saying about me. After a month or so, she asked if I would be fine with a relationship, and I lost my guard, previously I had been saying “No, I don’t want another relationship” so she wouldn’t make everything awkward. But this time, I forgot, and said “Yeah, sure.” The next following weeks consisted of me not knowing what to tell this guy, I’m absolutely inexperienced when it comes to rejecting people, it’s not something I enjoy doing, and she knew that. I’ve since apologized to the guy, and we’re still friends, but none of that had been pleasant.
When I finally got to see her uncaring, blunt and cold side, no one else saw it, I had been struggling with stress and workloads, and wasn’t in a great sate of mind, and all she did was say; “I don’t really know what to do.” and turned the conversation onto her, despite the fact I’d just broken down and started crying. Although we aren’t so close anymore, she still controls me when I’m around her, even going as far to make me feel like the toxic one. She recently stated that she had been dealing with a toxic person, now I’m just confused as to whether I am the toxic one or not. Can anyone help me confirm which of us it is? I generally try to be compassionate, help and push other people up, admit to my mistakes, and apologize lots. I try not to be cruel or mean, and always ask if I sound arrogant or am hurting someone. But now I don’t know whether its me or her, I’m so confused.


Dude. You’re both toxic. Take responsibility for yourself. No one else is to blame for what you do, say or behave. If she’s controlling and you can see that, and you give her that power – that’s entirely your fault.

You need to quit feeling sorry for yourself and stop hanging out with this person. Then go and work on yourself and fix what’s in your own heart. Highly recommend getting some counselling to get an objective view on this.


I would like an outside view of my situation. I’ve known this girl for a year and a half, at the start she was nice and sweet. But now, she purposely plays the victim, gets me in trouble, doesn’t work, overly sexualizes, and points out flaws in my interests. I’m pretty much an outcast when it comes to interests and talents, I draw and enjoy reading Manga, as well as doing makeup and special effects at home. But she always takes these things and drags them through the mud, making me feel as if it’s a crime to like them. She also takes the things I like and corrupts them, makes them sexual, despite me asking her not to because it makes me uncomfortable. She constantly shoves all her LGBTQIA+ opinions down my throat, don’t get me wrong, I respect and support it, but she just twists it and adds it onto the pile of “Abnormalities” she has. She claims to be depressed, anxious, stressed, have low self-esteem one minute, and then the next, telling me that she’s confident, happy, and not screwed up, and then telling me I should be more like her. I always find myself bending over backward just to please her, only to not gain anything from it in the end, she says things that stress me out and make me question what others think of me. Recently She’s been shooting me cold glances, and talking me down and being nastier than usual – yet no one else can seem to see it – and I’ve been looking through her social media accounts, asking friends their opinions on her, because I can tell there’s just something off with her. Her personality just doesn’t add up. She recently said she had been dealing with a toxic person, and then kept on glancing at me, I have the suspicion she thinks I’m toxic. that has been worrying me sick so much, making me think “maybe I am toxic, maybe it’s me, not her.” I feel more unstable emotionally than ever and she won’t stop, always blaming me for overacting or being cold. I’m worried sick that I’m not a good person now, can I please have some advice on my situation?


During this pandemic, I’ve experienced these from people who say they love me, but………… I’m tired. Really tired. I wish I had a place to go to find some peace. The last place in the world is with these people who love me.


how do i figure out if im the one that is toxic i have some of the tendency but not all, if i am i dont want to be this way, i to grew up in a very toxic environment. I love my partner with all my heart but he is all about himself and not us, where im about us, him and myself, i just want it to be like it was where we communicate and he put me 1st, and i did the same, i dont want to give up on him before ive tried everything i possible can try


My husband has been sad for me since he went to USA, if he said everything that is it, u can’t give a opinion or suggestion.. Now we have two weeks without communicating..

Getting Out!

Very well written and informative and spot-on article. I especially can relate to points #1 & #2 as those traits almost perfectly align with my most recent relationship experience

My gf pulled a #1 on me just last weekend for reasons unclear. We were at a party and she gave me the ultimate cold shoulder, acted like I was a chore to be around. I had done nothing to her. I tried to inquire what was wrong and she only responded with irritable one word answers. Naturally I lost it and we ended up in a shouting match. My reaction was over the top I agree, but there was no reason for the brush off. The night before we hung out and things were fine. But this just demonstrates the past 14 months, I never knew what gf was going to show up. Had I waited till the next day to address this, she would’ve simply deflected it and no resolve in the picture. Countless other examples in the story.

She also has mastered the #2 manipulative strategy very well also. Twisting stories and fights in her favor. So her toxicity centers around extreme moodiness, pushing away, a little gaslighting, and open ended communications only when it suits her favor.

This is a woman with 3 failed marriages under her belt, and when I first met her she was co-habitating with Ex #2 who committed suicide 6 weeks into our relationship. A situation I potentially remained in for way too long. Ignored way too many red flags. I think the fact that I stuck around after all this caused her to lose a lot of disrespect for me. Thus leading to some of her toxic actions.

What do you think?

Donna J

OMG MY ex (who is still harassing me 2 get back with him after 5 months) could have written this!! Where was this when I needed it 4 yrs ago…. I’m scared I will never b free of him… Omg I so needed this ..i did not really know about narcissistic people. I really believed I loved him & still do. But could not understand all the mean things he was saying 2 me bc I couldn’t go back bc. I was scared of him..he physically abused me b4. But I thought I knew the “real” him. The “sweet” him…whicb was wonderful I went back so many times (almost completely losing my family n the process. He did use me as a trophy..i never cheated but got accused constantly. We were 2gether 24/7. I didn’t mind GPS on my phone.. Doors off the bathroom…bit it got crazier & deeper than that& I find I’m still answering his texts “u hurt me so bad texts.” I’m left feeling so down & confused from this relationship & had to seek mental help. Thank u so much 4 ur post . it helps me 2 understand narcissism a little better & realize that I’m NOT a failure & 2 good 2 b going back & forth with this douchebag only 2 slip in2 another bout of depression????

Sasha R

I have been with a guy who simply denies all knowledge of situations that make him uncomfortable. English isn’t his first language so he can get away with this a lot, but when explained multiple times clearly and to finally have his ‘attention’, he then denies the legitimacy of it. I try to have real conversations but I chase my own tail in the retelling of circumstances as he often has a million diversions bringing up topics from anywhere and the past and then turns it around on me judging my character for the elongated efforts to discuss things in ernest. It’s tiresome and drains my energy. Nothing is worth the effort and so I’m resigned to accepting everything and unable to find resolve or value in communication. Sometimes my frustration and anger for feeling so helpless makes me feel like im losing my mind. He drives me crazy like no one else has and im trapped in my own cul de sac cycle of unproductive, pointless and negative emotion and communication. Is it me or him? I’m so lost now.

Andrew J

Very Nice Article…(applies to friendships as well as relationships).

Its very interesting as I look back at some of my relationships or friendships and how they revolved at times and how we, as individuals (with own assumed faults) latch onto others in the hopes that somewhere two wrongs will make a right. In my own case, I had a past relationship that turned sour this way…mirroring a prior one. However, it started off really well, “friends for years thing,” then dipping into a more thorough and intimate interaction. As a result of enough time together, I was able to perceive a very broken underside to the lady in question. To quantify it: it was like trying to fill a cup that would never get full. For whatever reason I have always had a soft spot for such things–err a flaw in myself I suppose. And so, it went on to the point at which I remembered the prior relationship and the toxic, flaming ending to it.

Inevitably, I said something that defined where I was willing to bend…but not break; and somewhere I would never go again.

The response was appropriately final I suppose, and tremendously curt.

Nevertheless, two years later the effect is still there, haunting my memories and emotions.

Toxic people seem to be able to work the system and reveal all our own faults and rely on the sacrifice that we are willing to offer to their egocentism. As stated in the article, it is always someone else’s fault, and they are never there to acknowledge the load…or the burden. They blithely seem to move forward, never truly being affected by what they have done to others…at least not openly…and always looking for then next means of “emotional transport.”


Everyone has , at one time or another, been a “toxic” person. Even some of the folks responding to this article seem to be “toxic” in some way- blaming others for their “problems”, always being the “martyr”, The Bible says to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you…”it also says that “the least shall be first”- that is to say that the “weak ones” will end up ruling oVEr the “strong ones” because the “strong ones” will end up being dependent on the ones who have done most of the work. Our children need to be taught these ancient words of wisdom – They would truly make the world a better place

Baby girl

My problem is my family they can see your fault but don’t see there so they go and talk about with other family members and there one family member that will come back a tell what everyone in the family said in there way

Deorao K

This is really good. I have encountered such people many times in my life. They will suck all your energy and happiness, especially judgemental and manipulative people.


I don’t know why my cousin is ignoring me and it bothers me a lot. I sent her multiple texts asking what was wrong and I apologized if I offended her in anyway. I called her twice. The second time it rang twice then went to voicemail. We messaged through Facebook not long ago and everything seemed fine. I don’t know what else to do.


I learned the hard way. Stop putting so much energy into someone who doesn’t value you. Resist persists. By sitting quiet see if she comes back into your space. If you pray, pray for her. Just send her love and light spiritually. You can’t control or fix another person. One day you may find out. Sometimes we just don’t click and some find it hard to tell you to your face. Check with someone else that she is ok. Let go and care for you. So many people will love to have you in their lives.


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Anxiety has a way of demanding ALL of the attention. It shifts the focus to what feels scary, or too big, or impossible, or what needs to be avoided, or what feels bad, or what our kiddos can’t do. As the grown ups who love them, we know they are capable of greatness, even if that greatness is made up of lots of tiny steps, (as great things tend to be).
Physical activity is the natural end to the fight or flight response (which is where the physical feelings of an anxiety attack come from). Walking will help to burn the adrenalin and neurochemicals that have surged the body to prepare it for flight or fight, and which are causing the physical symptoms (racy heart, feeling sick, sweaty, short breaths, dry mouth, trembly or tense in the limbs etc). As well as this, the rhythm of walking will help to calm their anxious amygdala. Brains love rhythm, and walking is a way to give them this. 
Try to help your young one access their steady breaths while walking, but it is very likely that they will only be able to do this if they’ve practised outside of an anxiety attack. During anxiety, the brain is too busy to try anything unfamiliar. Practising will help to create neural pathways that will make breathing an easier, more accessible response during anxiety. If they aren't able to access strong steady breaths, you might need to do it for them. This will be just as powerful - in the same way they can catch your anxiety, they will also be able to catch your calm. When you are able to assume a strong, calm, steady presence, this will clear the way for your brave ones to do the same.
The more your young one is able to verbalise what their anxiety feels like, the more capacity they will have to identify it, acknowledge it and act more deliberately in response to it. With this level of self-awareness comes an increased ability to manage the feeling when it happens, and less likelihood that the anxiety will hijack their behaviour. 

Now - let’s give their awareness some muscle. If they are experts at what their anxiety feels like, they are also experts at what it takes to be brave. They’ve felt anxiety and they’ve moved through it, maybe not every time - none of us do it every time - maybe not even most times, but enough times to know what it takes and how it feels when they do. Maybe it was that time they walked into school when everything in them was wanting to walk away. Maybe that time they went in for goal, or down the water slide, or did the presentation in front of the class. Maybe that time they spoke their own order at the restaurant, or did the driving test, or told you there would be alcohol at the party. Those times matter, because they show them they can move through anxiety towards brave. They might also taken for granted by your young one, or written off as not counting as brave - but they do count. They count for everything. They are evidence that they can do hard things, even when those things feel bigger than them. 

So let’s expand those times with them and for them. Let’s expand the wisdom that comes with that, and bring their brave into the light as well. ‘What helped you do that?’ ‘What was it like when you did?’ ‘I know everything in you wanted to walk away, but you didn’t. Being brave isn’t about doing things easily. It’s about doing those hard things even when they feel bigger than us. I see you doing that all the time. It doesn’t matter that you don’t do them every time -none of us are brave every time- but you have so much courage in you my love, even when anxiety is making you feel otherwise.’

Let them also know that you feel like this too sometimes. It will help them see that anxiety happens to all of us, and that even though it tells a deficiency story, it is just a story and one they can change the ending of.
During adolescence, our teens are more likely to pay attention to the positives of a situation over the negatives. This can be a great thing. The courage that comes from this will help them try new things, explore their independence, and learn the things they need to learn to be happy, healthy adults. But it can also land them in bucketloads of trouble. 

Here’s the thing. Our teens don’t want to do the wrong thing and they don’t want to go behind our backs, but they also don’t want to be controlled by us, or have any sense that we might be stifling their way towards independence. The cold truth of it all is that if they want something badly enough, and if they feel as though we are intruding or that we are making arbitrary decisions just because we can, or that we don’t get how important something is to them, they have the will, the smarts and the means to do it with or without or approval. 

So what do we do? Of course we don’t want to say ‘yes’ to everything, so our job becomes one of influence over control. To keep them as safe as we can, rather than saying ‘no’ (which they might ignore anyway) we want to engage their prefrontal cortex (thinking brain) so they can be more considered in their decision making. 

Our teens are very capable of making good decisions, but because the rational, logical, thinking prefrontal cortex won’t be fully online until their 20s (closer to 30 in boys), we need to wake it up and bring it to the decision party whenever we can. 

Do this by first softening the landing:
‘I can see how important this is for you. You really want to be with your friends. I absolutely get that.’
Then, gently bring that thinking brain to the table:
‘It sounds as though there’s so much to love in this for you. I don’t want to get in your way but I need to know you’ve thought about the risks and planned for them. What are some things that could go wrong?’
Then, we really make the prefrontal cortex kick up a gear by engaging its problem solving capacities:
‘What’s the plan if that happens.’
Remember, during adolescence we switch from managers to consultants. Assume a leadership presence, but in a way that is warm, loving, and collaborative.♥️
Big feelings and big behaviour are a call for us to come closer. They won’t always feel like that, but they are. Not ‘closer’ in an intrusive ‘I need you to stop this’ way, but closer in a ‘I’ve got you, I can handle all of you’ kind of way - no judgement, no need for you to be different - I’m just going to make space for this feeling to find its way through. 

Our kids and teens are no different to us. When we have feelings that fill us to overloaded, the last thing we need is someone telling us that it’s not the way to behave, or to calm down, or that we’re unbearable when we’re like this. Nup. What we need, and what they need, is a safe place to find our out breath, to let the energy connected to that feeling move through us and out of us so we can rest. 
But how? First, don’t take big feelings personally. They aren’t a reflection on you, your parenting, or your child. Big feelings have wisdom contained in them about what’s needed more, or less, or what feels intolerable right now. Sometimes it might be as basic as a sleep or food. Maybe more power, influence, independence, or connection with you. Maybe there’s too much stress and it’s hitting their ceiling and ricocheting off their edges. Like all wisdom, it doesn’t always find a gentle way through. That’s okay, that will come. Our kids can’t learn to manage big feelings, or respect the wisdom embodied in those big feelings if they don’t have experience with big feelings. 
We also need to make sure we are responding to them in the moment, not a fear or an inherited ‘should’ of our own. These are the messages we swallowed whole at some point - ‘happy kids should never get sad or angry’, ‘kids should always behave,’ ‘I should be able to protect my kids from feeling bad,’ ‘big feelings are bad feelings’, ‘bad behaviour means bad kids, which means bad parents.’ All these shoulds are feisty show ponies that assume more ‘rightness’ than they deserve. They are usually historic, and when we really examine them, they’re also irrelevant.
Finally, try not to let the symptoms of big feelings disrupt the connection. Then, when calm comes, we will have the influence we need for the conversations that matter.

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