Saturday, March 29, 2014

Feelings - Validating Them

Emotions and Feelings are a HUGE part of misbehaviour.  Whenever I facilitate a multi-week course, I start with validating feelings and children’s emotions.   If a parent doesn't understand how a child feels, they cannot discipline in a positive way.

Understanding their emotions is easy to do.   A simple statement will bring the feeling out.  “I see you are angry”, or “I understand you are sad”.    You can use these with all age children.

Toddlers:  “I know you are sad that she took your toy…”
Young children:  “I see that must be frustrating for you…”
School age:  “That sounds embarrassing…”
Teenagers:  “You seem mad…”

These simple statements open the door to communication.   What if you say the wrong emotion? Children will automatically tell you how they are feeling… “I'm not sad, I'm mad!”   Great!  You have just taught them how to acknowledge their own feelings!   A great life skill to have.  One piece to the puzzle solved!  

I had a young dad come up to me one time and say  “I don’t have any feelings or emotions, so this is not going to work!”   First off, I don’t believe anyone is free of emotions, he just may not know how to express them properly.  Secondly, this isn't about his emotions, it is about the child's!   We are not trying to get them to be out of control emotionally as they grow.  We are just telling them we understand that they feel that way.  We let them know that it is okay to feel that way.   It’s also an open door to more conversation about what is happening to them at the time.

So, now you have validated their feeling , what do you do next?   Let’s  take a look at the above examples again…

Toddlers:  “I know you are sad that she took your toy…but we don’t hit our sister!”
Young children:  “I see that must be frustrating for you…but we don’t whine, we use our words.
School age:  “That sounds embarrassing…do you want to talk more about it?
Teenagers:  “You seem mad…want to cool off a bit and then chat some more?

Do you see how these words can open the door to conversation so that you can teach or discipline in a respectful manner? 

What if you were to take the above examples and respond like this..

“Don’t hit your sister!  I don’t care if you are mad!”
“Quit whining…I'm not going to help you if you are whining!”
“Stop sulking!  Tell me what is wrong!”
“Change that attitude.   Getting angry doesn't solve your problem!

Now with these responses, where does the child go?  To a state of rebellion, resentment, and discouragement.  They will not be willing to talk to you about what happened and things just get worse.  
Validating feelings is one piece to the positive discipline technique!

So… before discipline, teaching or helping a child, validate that you understand their emotion.  Then see what happens next!


  1. When you validate their feelings, you're acting on resolving the situation, rather than reacting to their behavior. Makes such a huge difference.

    Found your blog from the Weekend Retreat link up. Thanks for sharing!


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