Expert Parenting Advice
Practical parenting tips and advice from experts around the world

Parenting advice from a marriage expert

The single most important thing you can do for your kids to help them develop emotional regulation.

I'm currently reading a book by the well-known marriage expert Dr. John Gottman.

Dr. Gottman claim to fame is that he is able to predict whether a marriage will end in divorce, with 93.6% accuracy, after watching the couple interact for just fifteen minutes.

This morning I was reading Dr. Gottman's advice on how to help your partner with various emotions. For example, when your partner is upset or crying, he advises:

Don’t try to cheer up your partner. When someone is sad, it’s a common response to attempt to make them smile, laugh, or otherwise erase their blues. But unless your partner asks for assistance in shaking the mood, it’s usually more helpful to listen to sadness rather than trying to relieve it.

Dr. John Gottman - The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work

Reading this reminded me about something Dr. Hilary Mandzik said when I spoke to her for our book How To Get Kids To Listen.

Dr. Hilary is a licensed psychologist and the host of the popular podcast Raised Resilient with Dr. Hilary.

In the interview, we spoke about how to raise emotionally resilient children, and Dr. Hilary shared the single most important thing we can do for our kids to help them develop emotional regulation:

Let your child feel and experience their negative emotions.

Just like Dr. Gottman explains, when someone is sad our first instinct is to try to cheer them up. But that is the wrong response if you want to help your child become better at managing their own emotions.

Instead, Dr Hilary recommends:

If your child is feeling scared or sad or otherwise just emotional, my whole mantra around this is just let the feelings be. Just let your child feel what they’re feeling. Don’t try to make them feel better. Don’t talk them out of it. We teach emotion regulation, which is essentially learning how to do the right things with our feelings, by letting our kids feel, in our safe presence.

If your child is scared, you can say, “I hear you. You’re really scared right now. It’s okay to feel scared. Tell me more about it.” All of that is still based in connection.

Dr. Hilary Mandzik

Here's the thing: Teaching your kids to better regulate their own emotions is one of your most important jobs as a parent. Because the better able they are at regulating their own emotions, the less impulsive they are, and the better decisions they can make. And the better decisions they make, the better their lives will be.

In the interview, Dr. Hilary shares how you can teach your children that their feelings are normal, and what to say to them when they are mad or upset.

She also explains how you can understand what your child's bad behavior is really telling you about them and what they are feeling.