Helping Little People with Big Emotions

Thinking of your child as behaving badly disposes you to think of punishment. Thinking of your child as struggling to handle something difficult encourages you to help them through their distress.


Working in early childhood education, our staff often talks about the behavior of kids. We work with 3 and 4 year old children, so these kids still have lots to learn regarding behavior in a school setting.

I read an interesting article recently that put a new light on how we handle the behavior of the children in our school readiness programs. It stated, when children don’t know how to read, we teach them. When children don’t know how to write, we teach them. When children don’t know how to compute math problems, we show them how to handle the problem. When children don’t know how to behave……. we need to teach them.

So often, adults can throw their hands in the air and exclaim, “What are we going to do with this child?” Here is what you are going to do. You are going to remain calm and help your children learn to identify feelings. Ask if are they frustrated because they are unable to do something they want to do? Are they sad because they had to leave somewhere fun? Are they tired, happy, irritated, or what? By teaching kids to name their feelings, they learn to identify them and we adults can help them deal with their issues. Yelling at a child “Why are you crying?” is not going to help them understand their emotions and feelings.

You may have heard of the educational emphasis on social emotional skills. These are the skills that employers say they are looking for in employees. Can the person, cooperate and communicate? Is the person self motivated, self regulated, and able to work under stress? These are the skills we are beginning to work on in the preschool environment.

Remember when your little person is showing big emotions, it is our job to remain calm. If parents join into the emotion, situations escalate quickly. Keep in mind dealing with emotions is a life long issue, and the more we help our children handle emotions in their early years, the easier puberty will be for all of us!

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