No one is perfect. I guess that's one of the reasons that 17 year old Ethan got so hot under the collar that particular Shabbat afternoon. The family was sitting at their Shabbat table along with Cousin Carol and her new husband and also a young friend of 10 year old Leah. In other words, the table was full. The family itself consisted of Miriam and Yehuda (the parents), Ethan and his four younger brothers. No one saw it coming. It seemed like a normal discussion between Ethan and his brother, Avi. But all of a sudden, Ethan was shouting and pounding his fist as he called Avi a few choice names. His face red and his words biting, Ethan then stomped furiously out of the room and out of the house, slamming the front door behind him. Everyone sat still in their seats, stunned.

For times like these, a parent needs an action plan. Fortunately, Miriam and Yehuda knew just what to do. In the olden days, it wasn't that way. If this sort of scene had happened back then, Miriam would have excused herself from the table to chase her son down the road. If she caught up with him, she would have screamed at him right there on the street. She would have berated him for his atrocious behavior at the table and let him know that he now lost every privilege he ever had and wouldn't be getting them back for at least a year! And she probably would finish up by letting him know how disgusted she was with his awful behavior.

Like many parents, Miriam would have acted that way because she would have let herself be a victim of her own adrenaline. A child can do all sorts of things that trigger an adrenaline (fight or flight) response in a parent's body. When adrenaline is running, a person feels an urgent need to do something right now. The parent cannot stop to think; he or she must take immediate action. Adrenaline is part of the body's emergency response system. It is there to ensure our physical survival. However, it is very poorly suited to solving our relationship issues, planning our careers or raising our children! Therefore, unless a child is truly in a physically dangerous situation, parents must wait until their adrenalin stops running, before dealing with a child. Parents can also help their adrenalin to stop running by staying seated, breathing slowly and picturing themselves on a nice beach far, far away from their children!

This is a lesson that Miriam and Yehuda had learned when they attended a parenting course offered in their community. Both parents knew that there was no point in pursuing their son and that there was, in fact, no urgent reason to do so. There was no emergency. They knew that they needed to come up with an appropriate parenting intervention and this would take calm emotions and a bit of time. Therefore, they apologized to those at the table for their son's behavior and the upset it caused and then they continued to serve the meal.

Some time in the afternoon, Ethan returned home. Miriam was waiting up for him while the rest of the family was napping. She invited her son to sit down and began her conversation with emotional coaching – the technique of naming feelings empathically. "Something must have upset you tremendously for you to have reacted like that at the Shabbat table," she began. "Do you want to tell me about it?"

Her soft, unthreatening manner made it easy for Ethan to explain himself. He knew she was listening in order to understand and he knew that she wasn't there to attack or belittle him. Miriam knew that there was no "reason" that could justify her son's poor behavior but that people sometimes make mistakes. She acknowledged his feelings, validated his perceptions and then offered her guidance. This was the order she learned in her parenting class: always make sure that you and your child are connected before you try to get him to make a change. If there is a good connection, chances are good that that the child will accept the parental guidance.

Miriam put into place the rest of her action plan that she and Yehuda had constructed. Ethan had to learn that such behavior could not happen even if he felt upset, frustrated, provoked or otherwise emotionally triggered. It was not enough for Miriam to listen and understand - -she also had to teach and set behavioral limits. However, doing all this is only possible when parents are calm and in control of themselves. Taming the adrenalin tiger not only empowers parents to teach effectively but equally important, it also helps to preserve loving parent-child relationships for a lifetime.