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The Quickest Way to Defeat an Upset Child


Parenting cliches drive me insane. I’m guilty. Don’t get me wrong. Parenting an emotional child (or two) offers me plenty of opportunities to exercise the power of a good parenting cliche.

Still, why can’t adults recognize that – cognitively speaking – not all cliches can be treated equally when it comes to communicating with kids?

One main reason I’m drawn to Montessori is the respect she gives to children in her writing and her educational approach. Respecting the child can be misunderstood as we should treat a child as an adult. That is not the case. Within the context of child development and embracing the specific developmental stage, we must respect the child.

In other words, telling a young child, “You’re okay,” doesn’t work well. Why? To the child, the big emotions and what he is experiencing inside his heart, body, and mind tell him that he’s not okay.

The Worst Words You Can Say to Your Emotional Child

So, when someone says, “Life is too short to sweat the small stuff, isn’t it?”

It’s what adults often say to each other. But a child’s attitude to the ‘small stuff’ is different.

One dad attending my parenting course stated: Children do ‘sweat the small stuff.’

Another parent I recently worked with could not understand why her four-year-old son made a huge fuss because his biscuit was broken. She offered him another biscuit, but he would have none of it.

What could she do? She couldn’t exactly stick the broken biscuit back together, could she?

This little story made me smile and reminded me of when my son, then around the same age, was inconsolable one day because his Batman pants were in the wash. You would have thought his little world had just ended.

No doubt children can get very emotional quickly about seemingly unimportant things. It might not seem like a good idea to pander to these emotions or bend backward to make everything right for them all the time.

The important thing is to listen to your child. Patience and empathy on your part will help your child feel validated in that their emotions are valid, which they are; they do feel upset/disappointed or whatever it is.

Most parents are not surprised when their two-year-old gets upset about small things. The behavior is accepted and not at all unusual for a child of this age. But it is common for older children to get emotional when something doesn’t feel right.

Being able to regulate our emotions, delay gratification, and respond appropriately to life’s ups and downs are skills that take time to develop.  Furthermore, some children will need more support than others.

Teaching your child how to solve their problems will assist them a great deal as they grow older.

11 Ways to Respond to An Emotional Child

  1. Name the problem ‘Your sister has stepped on your Lego model again.”
  2. Acknowledge the feeling: ‘That must be upsetting.’
  3. Ask your child if they can think of a solution ‘What do you think you could do to stop this from happening?’
  4. Brainstorm some different solutions; support your child to do this.
  5. Agree on a solution: ‘So it’s agreed that you will play with your Lego at the other end of the sitting room, where no one will be walking past.’
  6. Try out the solution. Remind your child to put the plan into action.
  7. Review the plan later and talk to your child about whether the solution to the problem has worked and, if so, why? If it has not worked, why is that, and what could be done differently?
  8. Model problem-solving in this way: ‘Hey guys, the film is all booked up on the day we want to see it, shall we go another day, see a different film or do something else instead?” Children learn a lot by watching others.
  9. Be aware that children develop different skills at different rates. You may have a bright child who appears to be ahead in reading and learning, but that does not necessarily mean that they will be up to the same speed in their emotional development.
  10. Let him have the experience. If there is not an answer to the problem, the cookie is broken, or the Batman pants are in the wash, then your child will need to learn that sometimes life hands us disappointment. Let him feel the feelings.
  11. Stay calm and be there for them while they ‘sweat the small stuff.’

Acknowledge, validate and guide the child to use these emotions productively is key. I hope you enjoyed this post.


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