The Swiss Army Knife for Kids

Written by Seth Pozzi, Head of School on .

Want to help your child with: Tantrums? Peer/sibling conflict? Anxiety? Disappointment? Big emotions?

The good news - There is one simple tool that can help! (HINT: Not a real knife)

The bad news - We often forget to use it!

I challenge us to put this tool back in our tool belt and keep it ready at a moment’s notice. If we aren’t using it multiple times/day, we are missing a huge opportunity.   
Young children deal with the same emotions adults do: anger, sadness, frustration, anxiety, happiness, embarrassment, etc. But, they often do not have or use the right words to identify and talk about how they are feeling. Instead, they may act out, sometimes in physical and maladaptive ways.  

Here's the Swiss Army Knife that can improve many parenting (or teachering) situations:

Name your child’s emotions
  • “Mommy left on a trip, you are sad.” 
  • Providing a label for the feeling enables the child to develop vocabulary for talking about feelings. Don’t be afraid to get it wrong. You are not a mind reader. If your child disagrees with your label, that also opens up valuable discussion.

Talk about how people might be feeling (frequently)

  • “Aerin bumped her head on the slide. How do you think she feels?”
  • Talk about different ways they can respond to specific feelings, conflicts, or problems. 
Talk about your own feelings
  • “Remember yesterday when the water in the bathtub would not go down? Mommy got so mad and do you remember what my face looked like when I got mad? Can you make a mad face like that?” 
Talk about different ways you deal with specific feelings
  • “When I get mad I take a deep breath, count to three, and then try to think of the best way to deal with my problem.” 
Teach your child to express their emotions in ways that your family finds acceptable
  • You might tell your child: “Sometimes dad is angry when something goes wrong at work. What does he do? He sits at his desk until he figures out what he wants to say about it. Where might you want to sit and think when you get angry?”
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