Being a kid can be tough. Not only do they—at least, in their opinion—have people telling them what to do all the time, but situations like living with siblings, navigating school and friendships, and competing in sports regularly test their capacity to control their feelings. So, why are we surprised when kids reach a breaking point? We shouldn’t be—because unless they’re given the tools to cope with their emotions, a meltdown might be the only way they know how to respond to a challenging moment.

Here’s an example of one such tool: Parent coach Destini Ann Davis has implemented a system for her pre-teen daughter to use when she’s about to hit her breaking point. Her daughter has a code word that signals to her mother what she needs at that moment. Davis explains in a recent TikTok:


♬ original sound – Destini Ann

“I don’t want to teach my kids to catastrophize their anger, but I also don’t want to teach them to ignore it… We actually have a code word. It’s ‘pickles.’ When she says that, that is my cue to give her space from her sister without it hurting her sister’s feelings,” says Davis.

Using a code word isn’t just for dealing with siblings, though. Kids can use their code word just about any time they feel they’re about to lose control. It’s a way for them to express themselves without exploding. For instance, “Instead of telling her sister she’s so annoying, it’s ‘Mom, I need a space break,'” Davis says.

The mom of two also gives her oldest daughter phrases to use that represent the anger she’s feeling without escalating the situation. “All of these statements are about her focusing on one of three things: what’s happening, how she’s feeling about what’s happening, or what she needs to happen,” she explains. It’s all part of what Davis calls angry language for big kids, which helps them avoid catastrophizing events (e.g., “I hate my life) and brings everything back down to Earth (“I really don’t like this moment.”). 

Related: Mom Shares ‘Secret Code’ Idea So Her Kid Always Has a Way Out of a Tough Situation

Viewers loved the idea of having safe ways to express feelings that don’t end in an outburst or breakdown, and using a code word especially resonated with parents who saw the video. One viewer commented, “I like the code word plan! My 8/yo needs to take independent play breaks, and it is hard for others to understand. Thank you for the phrases, too!” An educator agreed with the idea as well. “I’m a head middle school counselor… this is so beneficial and we try to use it in school. My favorite words are ‘peacock’ or ‘bubbles.’”

We think the idea of a code word is pure brilliance and something everyone should have put into action because, every so often, all of us could use a space break.

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