Dr. Phelan's overall policy is that of no talk and no emotion. This is also a primary point in Love and Logic. We need to take good care of ourselves in front of our kids and tell them what WE are going to do (I am leaving in 5 minutes for your choir practice) AND we keep ourselves calm (this is a big one I have noticed for Preston because I think if he knows I can handle him he can rest a little easier). When I was going through my divorce, my therapist gave me the great advice to not 'engage' when my then husband was being argumentative or combative. If I didn't engage or 'take the bait' there was nothing more he could do or say; he pretty much had to drop whatever it was he was kicking against or trying to get me to do. I have found this same tactic extremely valuable with Preston when he tries to draw me into one of his negative spirals. Jim Fay of Love and Logic also says to 'never argue with the ridiculous.' When Preston goes into a diatribe on what an awful kid he is I just say, "I'm so sad that you feel that way. I think you are pretty terrific," and then I ignore further comments or leave the situation and it does indeed diffuse him.
*This picture was labeled 'Happy-Healthy-Kids.' I chose it for that very purpose; as parents, I think we all want our kids to be happy and healthy.