Help Your Child Climb a Mountain of Emotions

Handling children can be a difficult task at times. We feel like they’re not listening to us; they feel like we’re not listening to them. Good listening and speaking skills are essential to successful parenting. Your child’s feelings, views and opinions have worth, and you should make sure you take the time to sit down, listen openly, and discuss them honestly at a noise level you both can tolerate.

It’s a natural tendency to react at 100 decibels (shout level) rather than to respond at 65 decibels (normal hearing level). An elevated voice level accomplishes nothing except to raise tempers and frustration.

What causes this emotional elevation? Many factors are in play to make what could be a positive experience into a gut wrenching one. We all bring our own childhood baggage into our adult life and, often, our children bear the brunt.

It’s natural to pass judgment based on our own feelings and experiences based on our own upbringing. However, communication is about forgetting our past and being receptive to our child’s feelings and emotions and allowing them to express themselves openly and honestly without fear of glass-shattering screaming from us. By reacting emotionally, we send our child the message that their feelings and opinions are invalid. But, by calmly asking questions about why the child feels the way they do, it opens a dialog that allows them to discuss their feelings further, and allows you a better understanding of where they’re coming from.

Getting your child to open up will give you an opportunity to work out a solution or a plan of action with your child that perhaps they would not have thought of their own. Your child will begin to believe that you do understand and truly care how they feel.

It’s crucial in these situations to give your child your full and undivided attention. Put down your newspaper, stop doing dishes, or turn off the television so you can hear the full situation and make eye contact with your child. Keep calm, be inquisitive, and afterwards offer potential solutions to the problem. When offering solutions, allow your child to comment on them. Allowing them to comment will further the dialog between you and help to arrive at a workable compromise.

Compromising is the toughest part of parenting because it forces us to give some weight to our child’s opinion. Remember, your child may lack the knowledge to form an accurate opinion but they will cling to what they believe is the right thing for them. It’s your job to persuade them, with a logical argument, not with a dictatorial statement.

During this process don’t discourage your child from feeling upset, angry, or frustrated. Our initial instinct may be to say or do something to steer our child away from their position, but this can be a detrimental tactic if done emotionally. Again, listen to your child, ask questions to find out why they are feeling that way, and then offer potential solutions to alleviate the bad feeling. The key is to remain calm and not allow yourself to also become upset, angry, or frustrated. You must be the leveling force.

To our children, their negative experiences or feelings are like huge mountains to overcome. We may see their problems as molehills but, to our child, they are far from it. You can be their guide to climbing their mountain by actively listening and participating with our child as they talk about it. Showing them the right path demonstrates to them that we do care, we want to help and we have similar experiences of our own that they can draw from.

Remember – respond – don’t react the next time you need to help your child climb a mountain.

Jim DeSantis