When Children Have Big Feelings.

agression co-regultion parental anger Jul 30, 2022

I feel like I’ve written everything there is to write about kids and their big feelings- from a one-year-old to 18-year-olds.

Why they happen.

What to do.

How to respond.

What not to say.

What TO say.

What to never ever say.

But let me see today if I can push myself and make it super duper simple. Hope this helps!

1- ALL kids of ALL ages have extreme feelings because their “feeling brain” (amygdala) is 100% mature from birth. All children, by nature are VERY emotional beings. Their “thinking brain” (prefrontal cortex) is NOT mature and won’t be mature until age 25.

2- Our job as parents is to CREATE COMMUNICATION between their “thinking brain” and “feeling brain” by using the skills we teach here (co-regulation and validation in Unit 3).

This means we MODEL emotional regulation. What do WE do when we get angry with our kids? Do we calmly use our words? Do we take deep breaths? Do we “timeout” ourselves? Do we keep a “nice” tone? Do we apologize right after? These are the ONLY ways to teach emotional regulation.

3- Kids showing us anger is not the same as adults being angry. Kids have no skills or tools to communicate feelings except showing “anger” (including hitting).

4- Lecturing, explaining, scolding, yelling, reasoning, negotiations, pleading and begging are NOT good responses to a child’s big feelings. All they do is make kids even MORE angry and feel not understood.

5- When kids show physical reactions like hitting, throwing, banging doors, using rough language etc.- they’re only saying one thing “I NEED HELP! PLEASE HELP ME!”

6- And this help ONLY looks like one thing. There’s literally NO other way to respond than to STAY CALM, STAY PRESENT, STAY KIND, STAY IN CONTROL, STAY NON-JUDGEMENTAL and simply acknowledge THEIR experience “You’re mad because xyz happened. That’s frustrating! I get it!” (More on this in Unit 3)

7- We can stop the hits. We can block the hits. We can say “I can’t let you hit/throw” etc. but that’s not as important as PHYSICALLY blocking the hits and what’s in number 6.

8- Kids who react this way when upset will NOT grow up to become adults who aren’t emotionally regulated IF we help them by modeling emotional regulation. If we respond with anger then YES, we are literally teaching them that the only way to respond to chaos is with more chaos.

9- If we’re having trouble TRULY understanding and empathizing with our kids then our words mean nothing. Examine your beliefs about your kids. What do you REALLY think of them? How do you see them? Do you judge them for having big feelings? Do you think they’re stubborn/rude/aggressive etc.? If yes then no words you say will ever matter. The lens shift hasn’t happened and until it does- the child will continue to spiral out of control (UNIT 1 is about lens shift).

10- But Maryam- how to control my anger?

Anger is just a surface emotion- what are you TRULY feeling? Fear? Failure? Anxiety? Shame? Why?

Are you taking your child’s anger personally? Do you feel “disrespected”? Why? Maybe because you’ve never been allowed to safely express YOUR feelings. Maybe because you were told that YOU are being disrespectful.

Kids’ (and even adults’) big feelings come from our brain’s stress response. The more we were NOT shown emotional regulation, the LESS we know how to do it. The MORE our feelings were shut down, the MORE our kids’ feelings trigger our anger.

This is OUR baggage though. OUR triggers. How can we help you get rid of these unnecessary feelings? (I say unnecessary because if your child is having big feelings, your own feelings just complicate the situation). Your own feelings should be 100% neutral, open and curious. (Check out the Unit on Healing Ourselves).

When you feel yourself getting angry, walk away(“Beta I’m feeling upset and you don’t deserve that so I’m gonna take some time to calm myself.”)

Make a habit of walking away as much as possible or at least staying quiet. Bite your tongue. (Good parents have lots of teeth marks on their tongue- Alfie Kohn said this about teachers but it’s true for parents too).

Taking ownership of our anger is the FIRST step to getting rid of it- believe it or not. Because as long as we keep blaming our kids for OUR anger- we will never do anything to make it better.

At the end of the day, we simply can’t expect our children to regulate THEIR big emotions when WE can’t regulate ours. Just this admission should give us more patience with our kids. We can do hard things, friends. Yes we can! 💗💗💗💗💗