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Unlock Your Parenting Power

Picture this: It’s a typical evening in the Smith household. Four energetic girls, ranging in age from six to twelve, are buzzing around like a tornado, their laughter filling the air. Suddenly, an argument erupts over who gets to hold the guinea pig. Grace, the youngest, feels frustrated because her sisters never seem to consider her preferences. In a fit of anger, she grabs a nearby stuffed animal and hurls it across the room.

four children

I harumph. Of course I’m irritated - the older ones are always so bossy (“can’t they just be nice”), and the youngest is now yelling (“she knows better!), and I just want a break. It’s tempting to focus solely on the behavior—the throwing and the chaos it causes—rather than the underlying emotion that triggered it. I was definitely tempted, “Grace, stop throwing things and yelling! That is not allowed!”

But here's the thing: the behavior is just the tip of the iceberg. It's the visible manifestation of something much deeper, for example, your child is feeling excited (emotion) so she can’t sit still or listen (behavior), your child is feeling defeated (emotion) so he rips up all the homework assignments (behavior), you child is feeling angry (emotion) so she throws a stuffed animal (behavior).

At first glance, it may seem counterintuitive (it did to me), but embracing and allowing emotions actually paves the way for our children to develop acceptance, confront challenges, and gain effective emotional regulation skills (read: behave better).

Make a Moment

When we try to control emotions by setting boundaries or resorting to tactics like distraction, threats, or over-accommodation, we may inadvertently suppress and leave emotions unresolved.

  • "Stop crying right now! There's no reason to be upset over something so small. It's not a big deal." (dismiss the emotion, miss an opportunity for connection and understanding.)

Child: Continues crying.

  • "If you don't behave right now, you're grounded for a month! No more playdates or screen time!" (impose threats, may result in short-term compliance and can increase stress and fear in the child)

Child: Often becomes more defiant or anxious.

  • ‘Okay, you’re in the middle of a great video so you don’t want to do your homework. Why don’t you finish it up; just relax.” (over-accommodate the child, missed opportunity to teach accountability and problem solving)

Child: Continues to avoid responsibility.

Instead, there is a way to encourage children to recognize and honor those emotions while setting boundaries on how they choose to express them.

  • “I can see you're enjoying playing video games, and it's time to turn off the console now. We have set limits on screen time, and it's important to follow those rules. Let's find another activity to do." (Boundary: I can’t let you do that; it’s a bummer)

  • "I see that you're upset about losing the game, and it's okay to feel disappointed. Instead of throwing your toys in anger, let's find a way to release that energy. How about we go outside and kick a ball or run around with the dog?" (Mentoring: you can express your feelings this way, not that way)

  • “Those are big words. I can see that you are really mad. I totally get you being frustrated. But using those words to talk to me is not ok. Take a deep breath and try again. I really want to hear you.” (Boundary: it’s ok to feel mad; it’s not ok to be disrespectful to me)

Why it Works

I made a word up for myself, “EmoEdge”: when we signal to our kids that they we ‘see’ them (“I see you, I hear you”) and accept their feelings (“Yes, I can see how that’s hard for you”),we actually get the edge (as in “get the upper hand”). Why? Because signaling to them that they are seen, heard, and understood helps calm their emotions. This connection creates a sense of safety and validation, allowing them to regulate their emotions more effectively despite the boundary you are setting. Understanding this concept unlocks the parenting power you need.

Over time, providing this secure attachment and empathetic presence helps your child feel supported and better equipped to navigate their emotional experiences. Ta da - that, my friends, is the coveted emotional self-awareness and self-regulation that we’re hoping for!

Think about it: emotions are not something we can control directly. They emerge from the crazy interplay between our brain, body, and social environment. Attempting to put boundaries on emotions is like trying to control a natural phenomenon like the weather. It simply doesn't align with the way our emotional system functions.

That’s why it’s so helpful to focus on understanding and regulating them. Emotions are valuable sources of information and can guide us in making appropriate choices and fostering healthy relationships. By acknowledging and accepting their emotions, we are helping our kids develop emotional intelligence and cultivate resilience in the face of life's challenges.

Your MicroStep

Feel, set, connect: Empower your child's emotional journey by embracing feelings, setting boundaries, and fostering a deep connection.

Watch for launch of my book Small Moments, Big Impact: The MicroStep Method for the Overwhelmed Parent:


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