Teaching your child Emotional Language

Step 1: Tell a story

Referring back to the incident that happened earlier in the day.

Example: “Mommy saw that when you were playing with your toys today, you got really upset when the tower fell down.”

Step 2: Let the child fill in the gaps

Continue talking about the incident BUT let them fill in the gaps. Ask questions and talk about what you observed in a story fashion.

Example: ”After the tower fell down, what happened?” “Oh yes, and then?” “I saw you kick / hit / punch / smack the sofa?”

Step 3: Drop in emotional language

Example: “So, when the blocks fell down, did you feel frustrated?”, “When you hit the…. did you feel….?”, “Do you know what frustrated means? It is when things don’t go our way.”

Step 4: Tell your own story

This ensures the child that they are safe and heard.

Example: “Do you know what happened to me today? I was trying to open the jam jar and I just could not get it open. I tried and tried. I was getting frustrated. My chest felt tight and I felt like just breaking the jar. Do you ever feel like this?” Is this how you felt today?”

Step 5: Ensure the child understands their feelings

Your child should understand that these feelings are normal and that everyone feel this way at some point.

Step 6: Share how you handle your feelings

Share your strategies with your child.

Example: ”When I feel frustrated because things are not going my way I take a few deep breaths. I do the flower, the rain forest, belly breathing. This really helps mommy to calm down.” “I know it is wrong to break / hit / smash the jam jar, there will be glass everywhere and someone can get hurt.”

Step 7: The brainstorming session

Really engage here and ask your child what they think will help.
Draw all the ideas on a paper. Let them draw as well. Go with whatever they say.
Make it fun for the child.

Example: “What can we do instead of hitting?”

Tip: Suggest that when they start to feel frustrated, they can come and tell mommy – EVEN if they feel as if they want to break things or hit things. Together you can find a way to calm down.

Step 8: Print and place all over the house

When they get frustrated again and hit / break / push / kick, remind them that in this house we do not hit / break / smash things.
Then go and look at the prints and talk about the strategies you discussed together.

Step 9: The consequences

Consequences for unacceptable behaviour need to be made clear.
– This is a very important step.

Example: Have a family meeting and discuss the consequences of hitting/ screaming/ lying and that it is not tolerated in your house.

Step 10: Start again with Step 1’s teaching moment

Let your child know that you also make mistakes sometimes – bring in your own story and teach them the emotional language.
Even with strategies, mommies sometimes do the wrong thing too and there are consequences for these actions.

Once your child knows the vocabulary, they can begin to learn to calm their nervous system, with the new strategies which you will print out. This will allow them to be able to make a good decision and think past the thought of “Should I hit this person?” or ”Should I lie to this person?” and to think of the consequences.

Tip: Teaching moments happen when you are most calm and connected to your child.
For example, before bed time.