Monday, March 30, 2015

Teaching Children Ways to Express Their Feelings with Words

Children naturally give us an idea of when they are experiencing negative emotions. We can see it in their facial expression and actions. If 3 yr old Timmy is frustrated with a toy he is trying to operate that is not working, you might suddenly see him chunk it across the room if he gets frustrated enough. Another instance might be where Jimmy is not happy when Susie takes most of the blocks they are both using for building so he knocks her structure over when she does not share more with him. 

My children's initial response to getting frustrated with the other sibling is to run off of course and say, "Mom, she has the cars I was using" or "Mom, he called me a slowpoke."  "Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom!!!" They of course want me to fix it or solve the problem for them.  Sometimes it's easier to just do that and tell them what needs to happen or what the other child needs from the first, but we come to realize that, this is not teaching them the independence they need as they grow older to solve their own problems. I am not at school with them.  They will have to learn to express their feelings and needs and if they cannot do it themselves, they will 

  1. Likely act on instinct and hit someone or throw something when upset/frustrated/etc.
  2. Not have the confidence they need to know what to do and be successful in all kinds of situations whether social, academic, or other. 

I was fortunate enough to attend a facilitation training last April for the Nurturing Parenting Program. I found great resources during the training that we are implementing here at home, although some have taken practice and time. 

One resource that has significantly helped our kids express their feelings to each other and help with the problem solving process, are the phrases below. 

I feel _______________________



I need you to ________________________.

Putting it into an example situation my kids have been in:

Adelyn says:

I feel ____upset________

when ___you call me a slowpoke___

because ____I don't like being called that____.

I need you to ___please stop calling me names____.\

Learning the Words
Yes, she and Zac have needed a lot of help learning the phrases and thinking up the right feelings to use when she is feeling something negative.  They both tend to resort to saying, "mad" when they are experiencing something negative.

Something we try to do as parents is:

  1. Model, label and express our own feelings appropriately as parents so they can expand their vocabulary for feelings. I have found these guidelines very useful myself. 
  2. Ask them if they are feeling certain feelings based on the situation if they have a hard time coming up with something such as "frustrated" or "upset."

My kids, almost 8 yrs and 5 yrs, are still working on this. I am still giving them many reminders to use it, but less on the words and order of the phrases. As I mentioned has been useful for me to when expressing my own frustrations to the kids. If anyone needs help remembering to use it in the first place, post it in various places around the house. Kids that can read will benefit and the parents can remember to set the example!

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