Emotions are something all humans experience, all the time. Some emotions are positive and others both unpleasant and also out of our control. These emotions and feelings are present in adults and children alike.
Naturally, young children lean on their parents for emotional support when they cannot understand themselves or not control how they feel. They need or seek guidance and support for all their emotional experiences. The way young children ask for support may differ.
It could be an outburst, an emotional meltdown, or just plain howling. However, when parents do not understand this type of plea for help, their reactions are filled with their own biases, fears, and motivations as they are coping with their own feelings and needs.
Even in their sincere efforts, parents somehow feel a need to direct and control in keeping with popular notions of how they should act and react to children who just want to be heard. Thus not giving children the support they are asking. (To know more about – How to deal with misbehavior? Please click here)
In these scenarios, any child needs two basic reinforcements – Positive Attention and Positive Power.
Positive Attention is when we listen uninterrupted to our children and really understand their feelings and thoughts. We empathise with them and respect what they have to say. Their need to be heard and respected is met.
If this need is not met, it leads to ‘attention-seeking’ behavior. Even if destructive, children repeat behavior that works for them. So listen and validate them at every step. They need you to just see them for who they are without any preconceived notions and prejudices.
A few examples of statements or questions which make children feel validated:
Always face the child, kneel down if you are standing, maintain eye contact, and speak softly and encouragingly.
” I hear you, my dear. I understand how you are feeling.”
“You must be feeling so bad about this. Come let me give you a hug my love.”
“Oh, I know how that feels! It must’ve been awful for you. Come here and let me blow some kisses on your hurt.”
“Such wonderful news! I am so excited for you! Such a big achievement!! “(Lots of hugs and claps)
“Any failure is just a stepping stone to your next success. Start from where you are, work hard and you will soon be where you want to be. Today is just a bend in the road.”
These validations and empathy help children cope with their ‘big’ feelings. When you give them a helping hand by listening and talking, they get the emotional support to understand and manage their emotions.
Positive Power is giving age-appropriate autonomy. Autonomy is giving freedom of choice. By respecting this one simple aspect we make them feel equal. They feel understood and seen by us. It gives a feeling of control in their decisions and it gives them a sense of responsibility. Also, they begin to believe their actions matter, they matter.
If this power is not given, will lead them to feel angry and helpless. All human beings are born with Free will – ‘It’s always their choice’. And it should be.
Here are a few ideas on how we can give age-appropriate autonomy.
The above ideas depend on the emotional maturity of the child, your home environment and personal beliefs. They are meant to serve as guidelines.
With giving autonomy also collaborate and decide age-appropriate chores. It is always important to remind children (quoting Spiderman)
“With great power, comes great responsibility.”
With Positive Power comes a sense of control and responsibility. They feel in control of their actions and responsible for them. Both these approaches will help them understand and manage their emotions leading to emotional maturity.
As a parent, we must be an emotional bank for our children. Where we can deposit our mutual experiences and learn from each other. Respect and listen to each other. Children are a reflection of us in a smaller form with the same desires to heard, want to be seen and respected for who they are.