So, say your child expresses his/her frustration, physically or verbally… Find a quiet place where you and your child can talk.
1- First, very important: Acknowledge his/her feeling
Ex: yes, I can see you are frustrated
- or/ tell me how you feel?
It is most important for the child to feel understood and loved.
2- Get the child’s thought behind the frustration, or other bad feeling.
Ex: what is it exactly that makes you feel that way?
Get a statement from your child, which expresses his/her thought about what happened.
It is important for the child to realise that thoughts and feelings are related.
3- Ask your child: Would you choose to think and feel that way?
You will probably get resistance form your child in answer to that question. You may have to acknowledge his/her feelings again, and acknowledge the facts, before you can repeat the question. You may need to do this several times until the child answers ‘no, I would not choose this’.
Child: but it’s not me! It’s true! It’s not fair!
Parent: I know you did not do it and it’s true, it happened, someone did that, etc. and you can’t change that. But would you choose to think and feel the way you do now?
Parent: no, you would not choose that for yourself.
It important for the child to realise he/she has the power to manage their feelings by choosing his/her thought.
4- Now, ask your child,
First: How would you choose to feel now?
Let your child express happy feelings, you may help them if they struggle.
Child: I don’t know, I’m mad!
Parent: you are, but you said you would not choose that… would you choose to feel happy? Excited? Peaceful?
Then: And what would you choose to think now so you can feel that way?
Let your child express what thought would make them happy instead, you may help them if they struggle.
Child: what happened cannot make me happy!
Parent: what about the thought that… it was not you, you are a good person, is that a nice thought that makes you feel happy? Or/… the thought that: you can tell your friend you are sorry and make things better by…
Child: can I have an ice-cream?
Parent: there’s a nice thought. And if this was not possible because we need to have dinner first, would you choose to think about an ice-cream after dinner?
It is important for your child to both understand that it is not their fault when they have thoughts that feel bad (frustration happens), but to also feel their responsibility to manage these thoughts and value those that make them feel good.
By Emmanuelle Betham Parent, Educator and Life Coach