Creative Child

Raising an Expressive Child

Does your child throw temper tantrums when things don’t go their way? Does he hit siblings when he is mad? Does she throw toys across the room when she is frustrated? Kids often don’t understand how to appropriately express strong feelings like anger, frustration, or disappointment causing them to act out. This is totally normal and the good the good news is, parents can help kids understand their emotions, express themselves in a healthy way, and even learn to cope with their feelings.


Teach feeling words

The biggest obstacle toddlers have when expressing their feelings is the simple fact that they do not have the words to explain what is going on. When your child has worked hard to build a tower of blocks only to have it topple down over and over again, they feel frustrated. Simply stating “You are frustrated with your blocks aren’t you? Can I help?” acknowledges your child’s feelings and give words to identify them in the future. If a sibling took their toy away and they begin to cry, acknowledge that they are sad and come up with a solution together to work it out. In the future, give your child the opportunity to express how they are feeling and listen. This will help them show their feelings through words rather than actions (like hitting or throwing a tantrum). For an older child, ask them what they are feeling and listen to the answer without criticism. If they are having trouble coming up with feelings words to express themselves, give them a couple that you feel may fit the situation. Ask if they feel there is a better way they could handle the situation and talk it out together.

Talk about feelings often

It is important to not only give your child the words to express their own feelings but to also notice and label the feelings of others. When you arrive home to a dog that greets you at the door and a wagging tail, explain that the dog is excited to see you. If they notice someone crying talk about how they are sad and why. If your child acts out toward someone else, try to explain the feelings involved. “You were mad at your sister and so you told her you didn’t like her anymore, that hurt her feelings and now she feels sad.” Help your child to notice the cues and body language of others and guess their emotions. You can also play a game where you make faces at each other. First make a happy face, then a mad face, then a sad face. As you read books try to guess the feelings of the characters. Parents can also find many books and videos about feelings at their local library


Model appropriate expression

It’s okay for kids to know that parents have feelings of sadness, excitement, frustration, and anger just like they do. During these emotional moments, we can model a positive way of dealing with our feelings to our kids. When a parent gets mad, they have the opportunity to yell or get physical or they can calmly say they need to take a walk and excuse themself until they can cool down. When we are frustrated with a task let kids know what you are feeling and that you have decided to take a break or ask for help. Feelings of sadness are normal and we can show kids it’s okay to feel down once in awhile. Spending time with people we care about, exercising, or doing something we enjoy is a great way to lift a mood. 


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