There is a shockingly easy way to tame tantrums and moderate meltdowns. I’m still amazed at how well it works with my boys.
It’s a little trick called validation.
Kids are full of emotions. Happy. Sad. Tired. Hungry. Irritated. Frustrated. And downright mad!
Kids don’t always know what they are experiencing and emotional outbursts can be a little scary at times. Validating emotions gives your child a label for what they are feeling and actually allows the brain to stop producing the fight or flight chemicals and start producing the calming chemicals. It works in adults, too.
One of the most important things to remember as a parent–and in life in general–is that emotions are never right or wrong. They just are. It’s a natural response to the world around you. It’s how you respond to the emotion that may be inappropriate.
When you validate emotions, avoid placing judgment on them. Never tell your child “You shouldn’t be sad/upset/angry.” The truth of the matter is that they are sad/upset/angry. Telling a child they shouldn’t feel what they are feeling creates confusion and a whole host of issues that can be easily avoided.
Here’s the Secret
All you have to do is repeat back to your child what you hear them saying or what you see them feeling.
- “It looks like you feel really angry.”
- “You are mad because Johnny took your toy, right?
- “It doesn’t feel fair that Mommy won’t let you watch another movie before bedtime, does it?”
- “You are mad because your princess dress is in the washer and you can’t wear it, huh?”
- “You don’t want to eat your dinner, do you.”
That’s the secret. Just repeat back to them what you see them feeling. Wash, rinse, repeat. It may take a few times of parroting back their obvious emotions for them to settle down, but you will be amazed at how well it works.
Validating your child’s emotions can take the struggle out of so many different situations and teaches them emotional intelligence. Your child just wants to be heard. Kids want to know you understand them and are paying attention. They also need the labels for the different emotions they feel so they can identify it and move on.
Give it a try this week. Instead of telling your kiddo that they have no reason to be so mad, try validating instead. Let me know how it goes, okay?