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

Don't Stop The Feeling

Why it is critical to let your child experience bad feelings.

Don't minimise.

When your child comes to you with a problem, it is so natural to tell them "Don't worry, it's not that bad" or "There's nothing to be afraid of".

You might say this with the best intentions, but think about it for a minute.

If you have a problem, and you complain to your friend or partner, would you feel better if they told you "Don't worry about it, it doesn't seem so bad..."

Of course not.

No-one has ever calmed down by being told to calm down.

No-one has ever stopped being afraid by being told not to be afraid.

Instead of minimizing your child's negative emotions, let your child experience them.

When they are afraid, teach that it is normal to be afraid. That everyone is afraid sometimes. And that being afraid will pass.

When they get mad, tell them that everyone gets mad sometimes. It is okay to be mad. You are still responsible for your actions when you are mad, but being mad is normal.

Dr. Hilary Mandzik, a licensed psychologist and host of the podcast Raised Resilient with Dr. Hilary, says that this is the most important thing you can do for your child's emotional development:

The single most important thing we can do for our kids to help them develop emotional regulation and learn to do the right things with their feelings is to let them feel and then to keep them safe while they’re feeling.

For example, maybe your child is mad at you because you made them turn off the video game, and they try to hit you. And you are going to say, “I see that you’re so mad, I’m not going to let you hit.” You might literally grab their wrist and say, “I’m not going to let you hit, but I get that your mad and it is okay to be mad.”

So, in that moment, you are physically teaching them how to do the right things with their mad feelings. You’re going to stop that hit, but you’re allowing the feelings. And so over time when we do that, our kids get the message, “Oh, okay, cool. It’s not bad to feel angry, but it’s not OK to hit. I have to do something different with that feeling.”

And we can read books about it, and we can talk about it all we want to, but really where we get the best results is when we actually let our kids feel the feelings.

Dr. Hilary Mandzik

In my interview with Dr. Hilary, she shares how you can teach your children that their feelings are normal, and how doing this helps them develop emotional resilience and the ability to manage their emotions.

This teaches them to be calmer and more in control, and ultimately make better decisions throughout their lives.

She also explains how to understand what your child's "bad" behavior is telling you about them.