Helping Kids Behave Might Be Easier Than You Think

At least in some ways. More and more I am reading about the importance of validating the emotions of children in teaching and parenting. Perhaps your kid is throwing a temper tantrum, waving his fists in frustration, or even crying over a toy that he couldn’t have at the moment – all fairly common occurrences in most houses with a child under the age of 5 years. And all occurrences that most of us wish would go away.

What’s a parent or a teacher to do? Well, according to many early childhood experts at least part of the answer is to acknowledge the emotion and share a bit of empathy. Here are some examples:

  • Your child throws a temper tantrum because it’s time to leave the park. Your response might be: “I know, sometimes it makes us angry when we can’t do what we want to do. Maybe we can come back to the park another day.”
  • Your child is crying because a friend is playing with one of his toys. Your response might be: “Are you sad because you wanted to play with that toy? Maybe John will let you have a turn with it in a minute.”
  • Your child becomes frustrated with a toy or a task he is trying to accomplish. Just today, I heard a parent respond to this situation by saying: “I think you are frustrated. Why don’t you take a deep breath and try again.” Sure enough, the little boy took a breath, calmed down, tried again, and indeed accomplished his goal, to which the parent responded, “I knew you could do it.”

It seems a little silly, but putting a name to our emotions helps anyone regain composure, even those under 5, and you don’t have to wait until your child is talking to start. The sooner you begin, the sooner labeling feelings will be able to help your child learn to respond in a more mature fashion. Learning ASL for these words can also aid in helping your child learn these abstract concepts.

Even more, I find that labeling a child’s emotions helps me as a parent and a teacher. When I say something akin to “I can see that you’re angry, let’s take a moment to calm down” or “I know that frustrated you, but we don’t throw things, even when we’re angry” it calms me down. It reminds me that I’m dealing with a person (albeit one that’s much smaller than me), and not simply a crazy toddler who’s trying to torment me with kicking and screaming.

And of course, labeling emotions doesn’t mean that you have to accept the behavior that goes along with them. It simply says, “It’s okay to feel this way.” It’s okay to be angry. It’s not okay to throw things or hurt people. It’s okay to be frustrated. But sometimes it helps to take a deep breath. It’s okay to be sad. Life is not always fair, and we don’t always get what we want. But sometimes it’s easier to sneak away to a quiet place and let all our angry or sad or frustrated feelings out, so we don’t hurt someone we love.

I guess in a way, validated feelings are something we all need. We all simply want to be heard. Children are no different.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply