Purposeful Parenting: Helping your child manage big feelings
To state the obvious- Parenting is challenging. It is challenging for a variety of reasons. Maybe your own temperament and personality isn't matched with your kids child's, perhaps you as a parent are irritable due to your own stressors and ways of managing your life, maybe your child is overwhelmed with their own big feelings, or maybe it's just that on occasion kids just behave in ways that are, quite frankly, annoying!
We all feel frustrated with our children at times, and it is important to recognize that our multitude of feelings while raising children is to be expected. However, how we deal with our own big feelings is of utmost importance. Becoming a conscious parent means that we don't parent on autopilot, that we take time to reflect on what is kind, effective, motivating, rational, and loving,
5 considerations for your child's big feelings:
1. Calm yourself down before you respond. When a parent is obviously anxious, angry, yelling, and out of control, a child will pick up on this. Give yourself a few seconds to relax and take a deep breath, and reflect on what you say before you say it. You are modeling healthy management of your own feelings when you do this. A parent that yells "stop yelling!" will be showing that they don't have control over their own behavior. A parent that manages their anger by screaming and slamming doors will show their child that these are appropriate ways to deal with their big feelings.
2. Connect emotionally first. Help your child name their feeling. This is validating for them and helps them put their feelings into words. Labeling feelings is a helpful skill to build at a young age. It is only when you can understand what you're feeling that you can figure out what to do with it! It also can instantly help with regulating big feelings, and begin the process of calming down. Anyone who has ever tried using logic with a kid that hasn't calmed down first will agree this doesn't work, and the child also doesn't feel heard. Dan Siegel, author of The Whole Brain Child and No Drama Discipline has a phrase to remember: "connect, then redirect." When a kid feels heard and loved they're more likely to listen!
3. Know your child's love language. Gary Chapman is the author of 5 Love languages for Children. Acts of Service, Gift Giving, Quality time, Words of Affirmation, and Physical touch, are all ways kids like to receive love. Your kid will likely have a preference, and knowing how your child wants to be loved and comforted is a good way to develop a closer bond with them.
4. Consider your family of origin. What did you pick up from your family growing up about how do deal with feelings? Taking time to reflect on how your own childhood has affected your current parenting style is important. Were you taught to deny feelings, or keep them in? Did your family air everything out, all the time? Determine what values you would like to pass to your children and whether or not your behavior reflects this. Sometimes patterns are deeply entrenched and we know what we are doing is wrong and not helpful but cannot seem to make lasting change. This is where therapy can be helpful.
5. Model a genuine apology when needed. There isn't a parent alive that hasn't made mistakes and behaved in ways they wish they hadn't. Being able to say that you are sorry shows respect for your child and a willingness to own up to bad behavior. No need to beat yourself up. Just do your best to not repeat that behavior. Always make sure that a behavior change follows an apology. Remember that walking the walk is more important than talking the talk!