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Helping Your Child to Learn How to Control their Emotions

July 18, 2019 | by Chaya Stark

How parents can help their child learn to get in control of their outbursts and frustrations.

There are a few key points to keep in mind when raising a child who has a hard time getting his or her emotions under control. First of all, realize we all have this challenge on a certain level. There are many times we react to a situation in an irrational way. Many of us are stressed and get easily frustrated in our own homes on a regular basis, but yet find ourselves constantly complaining about our child's lack of emotional control. Once we realize that we too struggle with the way we react to our challenges we can have a little bit more patience with our children.

We sometimes expect of our children to find a better way of reacting when they really just do not know how. They are missing that emotional maturity. Therefore, it is important to learn how to help our children in this area. How can a parent help their child learn to get in control of their outburst, frustrations, and any other immediate unhealthy emotional responses they experience?

Here are a few practical suggestions:

1. The best way to work on emotional regulation with your child is by demonstrating it yourself. Try your best to respond to stressful situations the same way you would like to see them respond. When you find your child coloring on the wall, how do you respond? When your hot coffee spills all over you when your children are watching, how do you respond? Our children learn to respond to life based on how we respond to life. This takes a lot of practice, but awareness is half the battle.

2. Offer empathy. Empathy is many times the key to help your child learn to deal with his or her emotions in a healthy way. Often a child who is constantly crying, complaining, and overreacting is calling out for validation of his or her emotions and offering, empathy can fulfill that need and lessen unneeded unhealthy emotional reactions.

3. Let your child know you are on his or her team. It is okay to have a conversation with your child about his or her outburst. Let your child know that you are here to help them and are on the same team as them. During this conversation offer better ways of responding. Ask your child what they think can help them learn to calm down in their moment of anger and frustration.

4. Try to find time each day to be emotionally available for your child. During this time, focus only on your child’s strengths, offer total acceptance and unconditional love. Avoid any form of criticism or unnecessary questioning. Life is busy and this can be difficult, but it will be well worth the effort as you see your child begin to open up, develop trust, and feel more and more comfortable communicating with you.

5. Role playing can be a very effective tool to use with a child who has difficulty getting their emotions under control. You can use role playing as a fun interactive way of showing your child healthier ways of reacting and have your child role play their own ideas as well.

6. Positive reinforcement. Make sure to offer positive reinforcement for any success in this area. When your child tries to use any of the tools you have discussed make a big deal about it and let them know how proud you are.

7. Use a chart system. For some children a chart system with a desirable reward waiting for them at the end can really help motivate progress and create a healthy habit. You can have your child put a sticker or check every time they catch themselves and get in control of their emotions.

It is very common for a parent to push off a child’s emotions due to various reasons. We're tired, we don't want to hear their crying, or we want to teach our children that overreacting is not healthy. In our attempt to help our children, we sometimes end up sending messages to them that emotions are not okay to express and it is better to bottle pain up inside. Our attempts to stop the crying, complaining, and irritability are usually coming from a good place. We want to end our child’s pain, we want to make things better for them, and want to teach them that overreacting is detrimental.

The question is: how is that being done? The goal is to teach our child how to handle and express their strong emotions in a healthy balanced way. By following the steps above hopefully we can begin to help our children express their emotions, offer them the understanding they are so desperate for, while also offering practical tools.

Our children are a work in progress. We are here to help plant the seeds and slowly watch them grow. With the proper guidance, love, and patience we can help our children learn to become emotionally aware and in control.

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