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AMA: Helping Your Child Regulate Strong Feelings

“My son is often angry. He doesn’t need much to tip him over the edge. If a little thing doesn’t go his way, he becomes red-faced, cries and yells. He refuses to tell me what is wrong. I want to help him calm down, but most of the time, I don’t even know what the problem is. I thought it was the terrible twos, then threes, then fours; but he is five now, and I don’t know what to do?”

I hear you. It can be hard to help when you don’t know what the problem is to start with. It’s important to remember that it’s difficult for young children to manage strong emotions because their “rational” brain is not fully developed. This is exacerbated by their lack of language to effectively communicate what they are feeling.

How could you help?

  1. Empathise with your child by describing what you see: “I see you really want to play with your sister’s crystal collection.”
  2. Acknowledge and help him name the feeling. Sometimes kids can’t explain what they are feeling because they don’t have the words for it. Help him name the feeling he may be experiencing to increase his feelings vocabulary. He will be more likely to tell you about his feelings if he knows the words to use.
  3. Correct the behaviour. Wait for your child to calm down. Once all other needs are met; in other words, he is not tired, hungry or emotional, correct the behaviour. Together, brainstorm solutions to the problem.

You can use the RIGHT NOW I FEEL printable to help your child name his feeling.


If you are interested in working on your child’s emotional control, you may want to consider our Self-control Value Guide.

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