Some parents have a tendency to be traffic lights without the amber light. In a way, most of them live in the spirit to remain calm and parent their children with serenity. Many aspire to be positive parents and as a result they end bottling up much frustration until finally the red light comes on. From the perspective of a child this would look like mum playing and then mum becoming this angry woman who is clearly unhappy with me.

The amber light is your opportunity to inform your child that you are losing your temper and that you are becoming frustrated. I feel it is quite a positive conversational piece which teaches much about emotional regulation. I also feel that it is a right of the child to become aware that he is troubling someone else with his/her actions. When we inform our children, we are giving them the opportunity to rectify their behaviour and perhaps avoid consequences. This is not always successful. But it sure makes things more positive. Even you would feel more in control.

And you do not even have to picture it as traffic lights. I have recently met a mother who shared with me a very similar strategy which follows the same principle, the patience bucket. In this technique she tells her children then the patience bucket is becoming empty because of what they are doing, and when it is totally empty then she will be angry. She acknowledged that sometimes children empty her bucket, but also says that most often than not they stop and change their ways.

Steve Libreri is a social worker and parent coach within Willingness. He offers parent coaching and social work sessions. He can be contacted on