Sometimes we can feel like we are going from zero to one hundred without much notice (if you’re a parent, at some point this phenomenon will become familiar to you). But the truth of the matter is that we do get notice. We just might not be very good at recognizing the signs along the way or sifting through the things that trigger our intense responses. If we can learn to read our emotions meter (and then do something about unfavorable readings), then it will go a long way to helping us keep our cool even when our children are being the lively children that they are. When we can keep a cool head, then we are in a better position to handle situations more effectively—swiftly, confidently, and successfully. Think of our emotions meter as having three sections, categorized by passivity, assertiveness, and aggressiveness. We want to stay away from the aggressiveness area. This is when aggression and hostility are in full form. Passive-aggressiveness lives here, too. The highest we ever want to run is in the assertiveness section. This is where frustration and anger show themselves. The trick here is to handle the inevitable frustrations of parenting well so that we never have to spill over into the aggressiveness section. Getting a handle on assertiveness techniques helps a lot. It takes a special kind of humility and honesty here, but it is well worth the sacrifice because we are investing in a healthier us. The passivity section is not about being passive per se, but rather a way to view irritations and annoyances. We can let these sorts of things go. We don’t need to make an issue out of every little thing that irritates and annoys us. But once we start feeling more than a little bit irritated or annoyed about something, then it’s time to address whatever it is that’s moving our meter up. If we wait until we’re really upset about something, then we aren’t really helping ourselves out—because now it’s going to be rather difficult to address the problem without getting all worked up. As we learn to recognize the sorts of things that bother us and then handle those things sooner than later (and by handling, that could mean that we employ assertiveness techniques to address the issue or that we work to let go of something that we are choosing not to make an issue over), we will find that our emotions meter will work much more gracefully and that we won’t have to try so hard to keep ourselves under control when it feels like everything around us is out of control.