There’s no such thing as too young when it comes to teaching kids ways of dealing and expressing what they feel.
Small kids and big emotions don’t mix well together. They almost always end up in explosive tantrums. As it seems, it all boils down this way – are we, parents, obligated to keep our kids happy all the time? Can we not tell them no anymore?
“Take your kids’ emotions as they are,” says one child psychologist.
“We can’t keep kids from getting upset. There will always be something that’ll cause it. Allowing them to feel dismayed is good. Emotions going out of control are, for most times, caused by suppression. Sending them to their room when they’re angry or troubled, not giving them the leeway to express what they feel – these are the things that hinder proper emotional management. Kids control their emotions best when they’re able to give a name to it and convey it in a way that doesn’t disrupt others. It’s our responsibility as parents to teach them this,” she adds.
How and where do we start?
“Start teaching emotional management to your kids at a young age, even as babies,” she answers. Below are five simple ways of demonstrating the emotional intelligence of kids as young as toddlers.
1. Let Babies Know You Recognize And Give Importance To Their Feelings By Being Sensitive To Their Facial Expressions, The Sounds They Make And The Actions They Do.
When your month-old baby starts arching her back and looking away during a tickle play, it might mean she needs a break, so stop what you’re doing. When a toddler points to the door her mom or siblings went out of school or work, it might mean he wants to see them leave so carry or lead him outside and let him say his goodbyes.
When you do these things, you let them know that they, and their feelings, matter to you.
Parenting is so rewarding because it allows parents numerous opportunities to learn about themselves. Taking steps to increase self-awareness can often help reduce or even eliminate feelings of overwhelm, incapability, and disconnect. — Ben Ringler, MFT
2. Be An Example Of Showing Various Emotional Expressions And Naming Them.
Verbalize expressions like “I’m tired because of the work I did today” after a full day in the office or telling your child “I’m happy because you get to spend time with Grandma and Grandpa” with the appropriate facial expressions. Doing so is one way of teaching your kids emotional management. It will help them identify emotions and connect them to their proper names.
Additionally, modeling good emotional expressions is one way of telling your kids the proper ways to express themselves. Remember, children learn best by example.
3. Use Free And Interactive Play Or A Little R &R With Your Kids To Teach Them About Emotions And Their Proper Expressions.
You can do an impromptu role-play or let your kids draw out emotions the next time you spend time with them. If you’re a creative storyteller, why not tell them to make up stories of different characters that feel different emotions? And make sure their interest is still with you by asking well-placed questions.
Studies have shown creativity skyrockets in individuals exposed to two cultures, two ways of doing everything. Every new thing a child experiences will become a tool in his creativity bucket. — Erin Clabough Ph.D.
4. Read Books Or Watch Movies That Convey Different Emotions With Them.
There are books about emotions you can read with or to your kids. And for those who are younger and wouldn’t appreciate a good story without visuals, use picture books.
You can also watch movies that deal with different emotions. Right now, my kids and I have the Trolls on repeat. Aside from the danceable tunes (that my two-year-old loves dancing her moves to), the movie teaches a wide variety of emotions – from being mean to being grouchy to feeling sorry, to being angry, and being happy. Inside Out is another movie that speaks well of feelings and growing up for older kids.
5. Patience Is An Essential Element When Dealing With Your Kids, So Have Lots And Lots Of It.
Kids, toddlers especially, still have limited vocabulary. This restriction might hinder them from finding the proper word to describe what they feel. Be ready to ask questions when this happens.
My two-year-old’s vocabulary is limited to “yes” and “no” so, whenever she cries, and I have no idea what she wants or what’s happening to her, I ask her simple questions to understand what she wants to convey. Doing this has lessened her tantrum-throwing times and has ebbed some of my frustrations when dealing with her.
Emotions serve a purpose. Emotions have their own logic that makes sense. They guide us and can be the driving force for learning and change. — Kathy Hardie-Williams, MEd, MS, NCC, LPC, LMFT
How do you deal with your kids’ emotions? Do you immediately send them to their room for what you think is a much-needed timeout? It might be better if you talk to them and start teaching them the basics of emotional management through these simple steps.
- Contributor: Lizzie, working mother of four