Creative Child

Positive Parenting: Accept Feelings, Limit Actions

by Rebecca Eanes

Over the years of moderating a popular parenting page on Facebook, I have had the opportunity to listen to many parents voice their concerns about changing their parenting paradigms to peaceful, positive parenting. One of the major goals of positive parenting is to raise emotionally intelligent children, and this is because research has shown that children with high emotional intelligence are less defiant, mentally healthier, and more successful both academically and in relationships.


Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand, evaluate, and regulate emotions. In our quest to raise emotionally intelligent children, positive parents understand the importance of accepting a child’s feelings. A common misconception is that accepting all feelings means accepting all actions resulting from those feelings, leading to an unruly and disrespectful or spoiled and coddled child.

Feelings are neither right nor wrong. They simply are what they are. We feel what we feel. What we do with those feelings, though, is extremely important, and that is a large part of emotional intelligence. It’s not about just understanding and accepting feelings but also teaching children appropriate actions around those feelings.


Therefore, if we did accept all actions, we wouldn’t be teaching the child how to manage herself during emotional storms or how to respond to others in emotional distress. This wouldn’t grow an emotionally intelligent child but rather an emotionally reactive one. Understanding and validating emotions is only half of the equation.

A common practice in conventional child discipline is to not accept the child’s feelings or actions, but to attempt, instead, to correct both.

In this exchange, the child gets disciplined both for his feelings and his actions:

Parent: Why did you push Tommy down?

Child: He stole my truck!

Parent: It’s just a toy. No need to get angry!

Child: But it’s MINE! Make him give it back.

Parent: You have to learn to share. Go to time-out for pushing Tommy. You know better.

On the other hand, some parents accept both feelings and actions, not correcting either one. This, of course, is permissive and generally doesn’t have a good outcome.

Parent: Why did you push Tommy down?


Child: He stole my truck!

Parent: You’re mad that he took your truck. I understand. That wasn’t nice of him, was it?

Child: No! It’s MINE! Make him give it back.

Parent: Let’s go get your truck back from Tommy.

So, here the child feels validated in his anger, which is good, but he also feels validated in pushing Tommy down. This sends the message that it’s okay to hurt others when you’re upset and doesn’t teach him how to manage his behavior during emotional waves.

Continued on next page.

Related Article: Three Simple Steps for Effective Parenting

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