Managing Emotions: Tips for Teaching Kids about Emotion Regulation

Just like talking and walking, and reading and writing, managing emotions isn’t a skill that comes naturally to children. Rather, this ability is one that kids need to learn and develop. This is important for parents to understand as well. 

Dealing with meltdowns and tantrums can be one of the most challenging aspects of parenthood. It’s important for us to understand that managing one’s impulsive reactions and controlling our own emotions is difficult for young kids. Scolding little ones or sending them to their rooms to calm down is not sufficient or effective. This can lead children to either suppress their emotions or lash out further.

We as parents can’t leave our children’s negative emotions unaddressed. Read on for some helpful strategies and a plan of action to help your child learn how to cope with managing his or her emotions.

Stay calm

One of the most important tips for teaching kids about emotion regulation is modeling the ability to manage our own emotions in a healthy manner. It can be tempting for us, as parents, to be reactive when kids act out. However, remember that children observe and follow the examples set by their parents.

Take a moment to calm down, even if you’re on the verge of bursting out in anger. It may be easier said than done, but meeting your child’s tantrums with anger and screaming will only escalate the situation instead of alleviating it. Because children learn from us, they can learn to calm down by watching us calm ourselves down. Children also learn to yell when we yell. They can learn to express themselves properly when we express ourselves properly.

Understand your child’s emotional responses

Children’s emotional responses and outbursts may be challenging for us, as parents, to deal with. However, remember that our children don’t deliberately have tantrums to make your life difficult. Parents need to accept and understand the fact that this is a normal part of a child’s growth and development. Our role, as parents, is to help our kids develop the skills they need in order to regulate their emotions better.

Foster a deep connection with your child

A good parent-child relationship is one of the keys to reducing misbehavior and instilling the ability to regulate emotions. Children need to feel connected to their parents. This sense of connection fuels their desire to cooperate more easily. 

Take the time to foster a strong and loving relationship with your child. Spend quality time with your little one, no matter how busy your schedule is. Carve out time, whenever possible, to make fun and happy memories together. Encourage open communication and listen to anything and everything your child wants to share. Stop and think before rushing to judgment regarding your child’s actions. Instead, seek to first understand where your child is coming from. 

Do not punish your child for failing to regulate emotions

Shouting, punishing, and giving consequences won’t address children’s negative emotions. What these things will do is give kids the impression that being upset, sad, or angry is wrong. This can possibly result in bottling up or repressing their emotions, which will make their “emotional backpack” even fuller. In the end, this can lead to your child to act out even more. 

What your child needs instead of punishment and scolding is guidance, love, and understanding. Take time to find out the reason behind your child’s emotions. Help your little one process these emotions by guiding the discussion as he or she tries to understand why these emotions came about. Empathize with your child, and then discuss options for various ways in which your child can respond to these feelings. 

Make your child feel safe

Young kids should never feel scared to tell their parents when they feel mad, upset, fearful, or angry. It’s important for children to feel safe and understand that all of their feelings are valid. Being angry at a classmate for taking away your child’s pen without permission doesn’t make your little one a bad person. It’s okay if your child bursts into tears and cries. What’s not okay is to lash out or respond to one’s emotions violently by hitting a sibling or having a meltdown. This is why it’s important for us to guide children and teach them how to appropriately regulate and respond to their emotions

Make sure your little one understands that all emotions, positive and negative, are a normal part of being human. It’s important for children to understand that while emotions aren’t something we can always control, we can choose how we will behave and react to our emotions. 

Managing one’s emotions is not an easy task, especially for young kids. Use these tips to help your little one develop important life skills as they learn to better regulate their own emotions.

For more parenting tips and resources, please visit The Pillars Christian Learning Center.