I said to a friend, “I wasn’t prepared for the big emotions of a preschool-aged girl. What are the teenage years going to be like?”. I remember looking at Sweet Pea in her small, but mighty form wondering what I had done wrong! Praise God that with guidance and prayer she learned how to navigate the highs and lows of emotions instead of being ruled by them.
Two things that I learned during those years.
1. Emotions are good. They are created by a God who has emotions and expresses them throughout the Scriptures.
2. But, there are correct and incorrect ways and times to express our emotions.
And these are the tools that I used to help guide my little one.
Piggybacking on last week’s blog post and podcast, I used the following one-liners or broken records when Sweet Pea got over emotional.
- I love you too much to argue.
- I will only listen to words that are respectful.
- Would you like to try saying that again with a respectful tone? This was one of the biggest tools to help her speak respectfully despite the emotions felt.
These one-liners allowed me to keep my cool because I was prepared with what to say. And because I didn’t add fuel to the fire with my emotions, the situations more quickly deescalated.
Welcome to the Family
We also have a house rule that you are welcome to be around the rest of the family as long as you are respectful. If sass, attitude, or emotional outrage occurs, you have the option to change your tone or leave for a cool-down time. This standard among all of the kids leveled the playing field and made expectations known.
Name the Emotion
Naming the emotion and providing ideas of what Sweet Pea could do with the emotion provided clarity to what she was feeling and options to turn the emotional ship around.
Example: “Sweet Pea, I can tell you are very frustrated. You don’t know what to do with this emotion. Would you like to hear what other people have done in these situations?” If the answer was no, she took a break, and then we continued the conversation when she was calm. If she said yes, then I shared one or two ideas. Then we practiced the chosen idea.
I highly suggest the book What am I Feeling?. It helps children recognize their emotions, name them, and deal with the feelings inside. The characters learn how to ask God to help them and remember that “a feeling is just a feeling — it’s not in charge of you.” The book includes a precious poster illustrating nine feelings. Read more…
I Corinthians 13:4-9 is my go-to set of verses for training my children (and myself) to love others even when emotions run high. We can be angry, but still be kind…because love is kind. We can be sad, but still have hope…because love always hopes. Read more…
Positive and Negative Examples
While watching movies or reading books together, we stopped and discussed positive and negative choices that characters made. For example: How did that character respond well despite the emotions he/she was feeling? How could he/she have handled it differently? How do you think the character felt when this happened?
I find as adults we are nervous to share our feelings with our children. I learned to be honest with my daughter by saying, “Your words hurt my heart, but I know that you don’t mean for them to. Let’s take a break and try again in a few minutes.” I also must model asking forgiveness when my emotions are bigger than they should be.
Sweet Pea is now 16. She can snap and big emotions can erupt, just like every other woman (her momma included). But she learned as a preschooler that using unkind and explosive words won’t provide the results she desires. She has learned that words and tone hurt other people. But with healthy boundaries and love through the woes of adolescents, she has learned how to replace the rollercoaster with respect and calm words.
- How to Teach a Child about Sadness
- Teaching Emotions (Pragmatics) While Reading a Book
- Do You Understand Pragmatics?
- When Your Child Says “I Hate You!”