Every parent has experienced this scenario: the bread is cut the wrong way, the water is in a blue cup when it should be a red one, and now your child is acting up.
According to parenting expert Justin Coulson, most parents will undoubtedly advise their children to “cool down and cut it out,” which is understandable but is unlikely to be helpful.
The youngster is already experiencing these strong emotions, which is why they are behaving in that way, adds Justin. “That focus is behavior-oriented.
“We act in accordance with our sentiments, so when we’re feeling bad, we act bad.
“When we say things like that to them, what we really do is instill a sense of guilt in our child.
“A feeling of unworthiness that they’re already acting poorly, feeling poorly, and getting into difficulty because of it because they’re not good enough.”
Often, all it takes is to just acknowledge that a child is genuinely upset because the toast was cut in the wrong shape.
“The kid realizes, ‘Oh, my mom gets it, and I’m safe now.
It’s natural and okay for me to be experiencing this tremendous thing that I can’t put into words inside of me.
Feelings guide behavior
Although it may seem silly to truly commiserate with a child’s intense grief about the form of bread, expressing empathy and compassion while acknowledging their sentiments helps children learn how to manage strong emotions.
What we truly want to do, according to Justin, is recognize that if we can make people feel better, they will act better.
“Your first reaction might be, “Well, the last thing I want is for my kids to feel okay when they’re not doing okay, because they need to learn their lesson.”
But all we end up doing is making them feel more anxious, and the more anxious someone is, the more probable it is that they would act foolishly.
While it could appear that kids are rewarded for acting out, according to Justin’s research, the opposite is actually true.
Children learn to better control their emotions when we do this for them, he claims.
“They improve their ability to properly control their behavior.
“As kids get older, they are better with friends, they are better in social situations, and they are better in school because they are much more able to exercise self control.”
Even adults require compassion
When youngsters are having a bad day, Justin argues we should take this into account before being harsher on adults.
“It would be nice to have someone at home remark, “It seems like you’ve had a fairly tough day,” and show empathy if you’ve had a bad day at work and a speeding ticket on the way home.
“Suppose your spouse asked you: “You got a fine? What were you contemplating? Will you turn to them and respond, “Good point, I really need to focus on that”?
It’s not a constructive reaction,
Three-step emotional coaching process
When you believe your child needs emotional support, take these actions:
- Recognize the signs of a strong emotional response in your child.
- Identify the feeling, but avoid attempting to solve the issue. The second step is more difficult. (Justin explains, “We’ve got to keep things calm when we approach our child so that we can actually name the emotion. All we do is express what we see: “You’re feeling really unhappy, or you’re having a rough, tough time.
- After giving them some time to collect themselves and discover a solution, assist them in doing so.
Recognize when to be silent
According to Justin, it’s generally not a good idea to provide emotional counseling when emotions are at their highest or when a parent is particularly sensitive.
“You’re going to really struggle to be patient and to sit down with one of your kids and say, ‘You’re having a rough time, aren’t you?’ That’s not going to work if you’re not in a good headspace yourself.
“Give your child space when they are too elevated, just like you would want space for yourself.”
He has personal experience with it from raising his own kids.
“Recently, one of my children was losing it, so I approached her and asked: “You’re very mad aren’t you? You’re really upset?”
“She simply yelled at me, demanding that I leave her alone.
Just say, “You know what, I’m here when you’re ready. I realize you’re having a tough time. We’ll figure this out once everyone’s quiet,” when feelings are running high.