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A Parenting Tip - Dealing With Feelings

Nov 5, 2007
"I hate you!" screams the five year old to his mother.

If you've been a parent for longer than say, five minutes, you've probably heard those same words directed at you from your sweet child.

How did you react? In kind? With shock? Or did you ignore the whole thing and hope it wouldn't happen again?

Well, here's a parenting tip you can use next time strong emotion gets the better of your child (you probably won't have to wait long).

Take a deep breath. Relax. And remind yourself of the following.

-- They get their say.

Feelings not expressed get pushed down and just like a ball held underwater, eventually need to pop up. Sometimes dramatically.

The important point to remember here is that feelings are not the problem, it's what is done with the feelings that count.

So encourage your little one to learn to use his words to express what's happening inside of him. Obviously this will take maturity and practice. That's okay. You will practice together.

-- Feelings can feel...intense. And scary.

So acknowledge that. Be matter-of-fact. As a parent, you calmly stating out loud that emotions can *feel* frightening can be an immense relief to your little child who may be experiencing overwhelm and honestly not know what it all means. Finding out that the strong person in his life understands and thinks this is okay -- just another thing to learn about -- puts the whole situation into perspective for him.

So here's another parenting tip to remember. To the best of your ability, respond don't react. Easier said than done, I know. But it's worth a little practice on your part. A side benefit is that you'll feel calmer, too.

-- Require respect.

Children that are allowed to be mean and vulgar often grow up to be mean and vulgar adults. Is that what you want for your child?

Probably not.

Your child can learn the truth; that strong feelings can be expressed calmly and honestly, without demeaning others. No yelling, no hitting, no screaming, no running away, no hurtful words.

One way to teach this is to be honest about your own feelings with your child. For example, in dealing with an emotional outburst, first remove the child from the situation. There may need to be appropriate consequences (boundaries), but one of them doesn't need to be mom yelling back or just sitting and taking it.

If you firmly and calmly say, "Suzi, when you get mad and yell at me, I feel hurt. I can't help you when you yell, but I can help you if you tell me what you're feeling. Then we can fix it together."

This also shows your child you're on her team. She's got an ally who loves her and wants to help, but is not a pushover. What could be better news than that?

A side note. Using a parenting tip like this one means you have to be diligent and work with your child in the moment. When the event happens you must stop what you're doing and handle the situation, no matter how inconvenient. Believe me, doing so is to your child's advantage. And yours.

-- Feelings are...feelings.

They're not facts. We don't need to base decisions upon them. They are just feelings; interesting, sometimes pleasurable, sometimes confusing, often intense, but always simply feelings. They are the way we experience our decisions, which means that learning how to respond calmly in the present means that someday in the future you really will feel calm when you respond to your child's tirade.

How great is that?

But for now, for your youngster, these emotions are new and an unknown. Sometimes kids are helped by word pictures. So try this parenting tip: feelings are like the wind. They swirl and swirl, but you can decide if you want to get caught up in them or not. Sometimes, it's interesting just to watch 'em swirl.

-- Teach what to do next.

Is an apology in order? Has there been damage done, either relationally or physically that needs to be addressed?
Putting action behind an apology is a powerful lesson to learn, even for a young child. It teaches there are consequences to letting your emotions decide how you will behave.

Wrap everything up with a firm, calm conversation, so that thinking can be processed and lessons practiced. This may take time, a lot of time, but remember, that's what parenting is all about.

My final parenting tip is easy and hugely important. After the emotional storm is over and the seas are smooth again, remember to finish up with a hug and an "I love you".

That will help create a much sweeter emotional state from which to move on.
About the Author
Colleen Langenfeld has been parenting for over 26 years and helps other moms enjoy mothering more at http://www.paintedgold.com . Visit her website and pick up another parenting tip today.
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