Helping Your Child to Control His Emotions

Characters Zack and Sam demonstrate how to control your emotions.
Characters Zack and Sam demonstrate how to control your emotions.

As a parent, you likely cringe when your child is playing with others and seems to easily lose control of his emotions over a small disagreement. I know I do.

We found some creative ideas to help when you’re talking with your child about how to control his emotions. The tactics include: getting your child to talk about how he feels, using TV character examples of coping, and taking photos of him when he’s doing things right and showing the photos later as a reminder if he gets into a stressful situation.

Explain that to me. Nothing is better than getting your child to explain to you what’s going on when he loses control of his emotions. This requires patience on your part. Keep asking the simple questions.

If he doesn’t get his way when playing with friends, starts to get out of control and he says, “It’s my turn to choose a game, not yours!”

Questions to ask your child:

How would you feel if this happened to you?
Explain that to me.

How would you feel if the other kid said to you, “It’s my turn to choose a game, not yours!”
Explain that to me.

TV character examples. Use examples of how characters behave in your child’s favorite movies or TV shows to bring up the subject. When a conflict is taking place between the characters ask your child questions. Keep the questions simple and ask him to explain:

How would you feel if this happened to you?
Explain that to me.

How would you feel if the other kid said to you, “It’s my turn to choose a game, not yours”?
Explain that to me.

What would you do if this happened to you?
Explain that to me.

Take 5 deep breaths. This coping strategy is one all of us could use I think! Talk with your child about how taking 5 deep breaths helps many kids when they are feeling like they’re about to lose control of their emotions.

Take the other kid’s point of view. The Australian Psychological Society (APS) suggests that you help your child to understand the other person’s point of view and learn how to take their perspective. APS recommends that you:

“Ask them what they think the other person might be feeling, or how they might feel if they were in the same situation. You could get them to ask the other person to say how they are feeling and what they would like to have happen.”

I think this is a great exercise to try when you find a movie or TV character in this situation while watching a show with your child. One thing I do when watching a preferred movie with my twins is when I see a teachable moment, I pause the screen and then replay and then discuss with them why the character is modeling great behavior. (More on using TV characters below.)

Encourage your child to use new skills. According to Psychology Today, you could remind your child of how the TV character used a coping skill. Kids may see social-emotional skills on TV, but they also need opportunities to practice those skills in real life. So, remind your child to try skills he has seen on TV. For example: “You look nervous. Do you want to try taking deep breaths like Rabbit did?”

Photos of him doing the right thing. Here’s a useful idea I really like from Metro Parent website. They interviewed Diane Nancarrow, a speech language pathologist with Kaufman Children’s Center for Speech, Language, Sensory-Motor and Social Connections

Nancarrow uses snapshots of children in social situations when they were practicing good social skills. Later, if they lost control of their emptions, she showed them their photos of how they looked when they were getting it right!

She reminds them:

“See, you don’t lie on the floor with your legs flung over your head when you’re being a good listener!” You can add captions like “Sharing well with my brother” or “Being a good sport at soccer.”

The photos can give your child a powerful visual reminder of how she looked at times when she was getting it right socially – and can be reviewed often to reinforce the skills your child needs to get along.

I offer a hat tip to all of the great advice that’s been shared by these websites and resources. My best to you in your journey to help your child practice how to control his emotions.

Dad and Developer



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