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Emotion Management - Emotional Control

Emotional management or emotional control refer to your children’s ability to:

- respond to their feelings in an appropriate way;

- keep focused on important things even when they are upset or anxious;

- do things that make them feel better about situations; and

- move on from difficult feelings to return to feeling happy and content.

Children can gradually learn to express their feelings in ways that do not harm other people and in ways that do not upset other people too much. Parents can also teach children that by using optimistic styles of thinking, their strong and perhaps unpleasant feelings can disappear more quickly.

Why Should Parents Teach Children Emotional Control?

It’s difficult and maybe impossible to stop ourselves from experiencing a feeling. So parents can not expect to be able to teach a child to change their feelings or emotions.

But it is possible to teach kids to react differently to the vast range of feelings they will have all through the day. It is also possible to teach kids to use a more optimistic explanation for events and in this way, help them with their emotional control.

Children with the ability to manage their reactions to a feeling are less likely to physically or emotionally harm another person. Instead of using violence or abusive words, children can learn to safely express their feelings using words.

If kids learn to be emotionally aware of their normal difficult or anxious feelings, they can then learn techniques to calm themselves and get back to whatever they were doing.

Children that learn to see failures and setbacks as temporary and only related to one particular situation, are learning to be optimistic thinkers; there is also some evidence that this thinking style can reduce the likelihood of depression in our children.

How Can Parents Teach Emotional Control?

That's a subject for many more articles! See the Related Information box below for more articles, with many more to come. An especially good read is the interview with Dr Sophie Havighurst called Tune Into Kids and Reduce Tantrums.

Comments (2)

YvetteVignando's picture

Strong Emotions

Hi Sarah, it can be hard work with these temperaments. I wish there was an easy answer - we could do with one ourselves!

We have three boys - all with quite different temperaments - and all with varying degrees of strength in this skill of 'emotional control'. Of course the reality that adults and children can't choose whether to have an emotion makes this skill even harder to master for some temperaments.

I really like the approach of the Tuning into Kids program - there's an interview with Sophie Havighurst about this here http://www.happychild.com.au/articles/tune-into-kids-reduce-tantrums and here http://www.happychild.com.au/articles/tune-into-kids-reduce-tantrums-part-2

I'd love to hear more from readers about tips on coaching kids to be better at managing how they express their strong emotions.

SarahLiebetrau's picture

Great post. I have a very

Great post. I have a very sensitive child who will be going along in leaps and bounds and then seemingly out of nowhere will have a few difficult days where tantrums abound and he struggles to make sense of his very strong emotions. This can be frustrating for the whole family- his dad and I tend to take somewhat different approaches to managing this and also his younger sister tends to get less attention when we are focusing on resolving his issues.

One thing I have noticed is that he will often get a burst of emotional episodes concurrently with developmental surges, eg, mastering new independent skills such as washing his own hair, conquering his fear of dogs or eating a wider variety of foods. I think he has put so much energy into this new endeavour that there isn't always a lot left over for the rest of daily life! So for us, an increase in emotional outbursts sometimes has a parallel with more positive personal developments particularly new skills but also increased emotional resilience in certain areas.

Secondly, because he is so bright and mature in a lot of ways, perhaps people (sometimes myself included) don't cut him enough slack, after all, he is only 4 and tantrums are part of growing up. Even adults have them on occasion! Wouldn't we all like some one who took our moments of weakness in their stride and calmly but firmly took control of the situation by letting us express ourselves safely rather than instantly telling us to put a lid on it?

Thirdly, I have found a great way to build this emotional resilience is to undertake small activities to test out his reactions to things, (kind of like a desensitisation process)- for example sometimes we go around various garage sales together on a Saturday morning. I give him a budget of $5 and we see what we can come up with. This works well on a number of levels. He gets to spend time just with me (a rarity with a younger sister around most of the time); he gets to manage his own money (and the sense of trust and responsibility that goes with that builds his self-confidence); and he doesn't know what to expect - so he has to deal with the prospect of disappointment ("we might not find anything we like") or triumph when we hit the jackpot and score a bargain. He also has to gauge when to quit while we're ahead (spend now and go home, or save and risk finding nothing later). It's all played out on a very small, safe scale but I have found that he has been very good at accepting both coming back empty-handed and the occasional windfall - either way he has spent a morning with mummy. It's much nicer than a trip to Kmart trawling the toy aisle.