elevating child care

Don’t Fight the Feelings

One of the most ironically counterintuitive twists of parenting is this: the more we welcome our children’s displeasure, the happier everyone in our household will be.
There is no greater gift to our children and ourselves than complete acceptance of their negative feelings. (Notice I did not say “behaviors”.)  By deleting from our parenting job description the responsibilities to ‘soothe’, ‘correct’ and ‘control’ our kids’ feelings and replacing them with ‘accept’, ‘acknowledge’ and ‘support’,  both parent and child are rewarded and liberated.

It can be intensely challenging to let go of our own reactiveness and patiently allow our children to feel. With practice, however, it gets easier and is the key to:

Successful limit setting

Fewer battles, more peace

Our child’s emotional health and healing

Mutual trust

A strong bond

Resilient, secure, authentic kids

Anna allowed me to share this note about her personal “victory”:

Hello Janet!

I want to say thank you for being out there. I found your blog couple of months ago. All difficult questions about parenting being so close to me, your advice and notes were such a treasure.

My son is 7, my daughter is 2. I have major issues with my son. I often used guilt to get something from him, and now it shows. It was easy to intimidate a little child, but it doesn’t work with a 7-year- old. I tried many different ways and styles, but nothing seemed just right… And here is your blog, and at last I felt I found what is needed!

My favorite book always was Children are from Heaven by John Gray. I loved everything about it, except time-outs. They seemed somehow wrong to me, but I didn’t know what to do instead. It is cowardly to deal with a child’s tantrum this way, to just put him in his room and close the door… But it never crossed my mind to just be right near him, sitting with him during the storm. My son would explode for every small reason and accuse me about everything and throw harsh words at me.  I was instantly triggered and involved, and there we’d be, standing against each other, screaming and accusing… Time-outs seemed much better to me…

And now I’m trying everything you are writing about, and today was the first big victory! Not over my son, but over myself.

Today I was calm and I was able to stay calm all the way through the tantrum. I was just listening to his harsh words and kept repeating that he was tired and angry because I would not let him watch cartoons. I assured him that feeling angry was ok.  When he tried throwing things or to hit, I held him and said that I won’t let him do it.

It was lasting forever… But I just stayed calm, did not answer his accusations and stayed with him.

The interesting thing was that my daughter usually hates it when we fight, but this time she was calm and just played near us like nothing was happening! And just when I thought that this was not working, my son embraced me and said, “I’m so sorry mom, I don’t want to fight anymore, forgive me please!”

I won that battle against myself, and now it will be easier. I know that it works and I know what to do.  It was not easy, but it was worth it.

Thank you so much, Janet! My son is not a toddler, but I hope I can overcome that harm I did in the past… We are blessed with such people like you, thank you for being there!

Sincerely,

Anna

 

I share more in Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting

(Photo by rolands.lakis on Flickr)

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41 Responses to “Don’t Fight the Feelings”

  1. avatar Amy Swint says:

    Thanks. I am very much a seeker of understanding here! I might as well be Anna up to a certain point. Engaged, non-calm-for-either-of-us interactions during times of conflict in presence of near-6 year old; check! Reading your blog with vigor and recognizing something I need is here; check! Staying calm all the way through a tantrum…haven’t gotten there yet. Well, the way I know I can stay calm is to draw a boundary and have him in his room to calm himself down, away from me…seems to be a boundary I need for me. I just can’t manage to listen to an indefinite period of whining/crying/nastiness in my direct presence without losing my cool eventually. And he calms more quickly on his own and comes out of his room eventually peaceful and ready to move on, at least most of the time. I appreciate the superhero visualizing. I think I could do it if I really believed in it. So here’s my question: you state that we should not accept negative behaviors, but that we should accept negative feelings. How do you make the distinction? Clearly, hitting is a negative behavior. Why is the category of scream-crying, whining indefinitely, yelling, using harsh words–why are those feelings and not behaviors? They seem like behaviors to me! Why are they more allowable than hitting? Doesn’t a child learn to allow himself to act out to the parent’s limit? If the parent in essence not only considers hitting a behavior, but also nasty sounds or words, isn’t it appropriate to say, “I will not let you act in that way?” I try to say, “I hear that you are very angry. I know that my refusal of your request is making you super frustrated. But, I will not let you act this way. If you can’t control yourself right now, you can go to your room until you’ve cooled off.” I feel that I am trying to allow his negative feelings and acknowledge them, but to set a limit on the violent expression of them. In a sense, we shut down part of a child’s expression of feeling by *not* allowing him to hit. But we do it because it’s not acceptable behavior. Why is loud tantruming acceptable? By sending him to his room it’s not trying to forcibly stop the expression with spanking or that sort of thing…but it is allowing it in a place where it is not making me snap…or his siblings.

    Believe me, please, that I am not trying to argue!! My way is not perfect or I wouldn’t be asking my questions. I think I have ‘engaged’ every emotional response he’s had since he was an infant, thinking I was trying to ‘allow’ his feelings and not just shut them up. It’s lately when I disengage and interact much less…which for me can happen when we physically separate…that maybe I see him learn to calm himself down more. I just have a hard time accepting the behaviors of a 6 year old tantrum in everyone’s presence, and so I present ‘my argument’ in order to try to tease out more understanding of your perspective. I would vastly prefer an emotionally healthy child for his sake and mine!! Thanks so much 🙂

    • avatar janet says:

      Amy, you are obviously very bright and thoughtful… Let me start with some things that stand out for me in your comment. “I think I have ‘engaged’ every emotional response he’s had since he was an infant”. I’m not sure what you mean by ‘engaged’, but that sounds more “proactive” than what I’m suggesting. ‘Engaging’ usually means we’re trying to calm our children down or affect their feelings somehow, rather than just accept and acknowledge them…and that can create problems…

      What you are now doing by sending your boy to his room is punishing him for his feelings. He is getting the loud and clear message that these feelings ignite your anger and are unacceptable to you. But none of us control our feelings…feelings are a part of us. So, these punishments (or banishments, whatever you want to call them) are received as a rejection of your child.

      It doesn’t sound like you are offering your boy an acceptable way to let you know how he feels…or the empathy he needs to be encouraged to express his feelings more appropriately. When we react calmly to whining, screaming, crying, even the harsh language, and when we acknowledge and accept the feelings behind these behaviors, then our children will feel understood, safe and loved. And it is through this safety and love that children are eventually able to learn to temper and control their feelings.

      If you need to remove your boy from a situation in which he is behaving abusively toward others, I advise taking him to his room for a “time-in”, which means sitting with him while he expresses his feelings as Anna did in her example.

      • avatar Amy Swint says:

        Thank you Janet. Yes, I have tended to ‘engage’ and it has led to problems. That’s why I think it has in some ways been easier to just remain calm when I am not right there with him…I can’t seem to be there and not ‘engage’. I totally get that we can’t ‘control our feelings…feelings are a part of us.’ But the desire to hit someone when we’re mad is part of us too and we stop it, even in a child. So that’s why I get confused…why is tantrum/harsh talk behavior allowable? Well, I repeat myself! I’m just struggling through it. Thanks for your insight. A concrete remaining question that people must face, not just me…how about when there is a schedule factor limiting the outplay of a tantrum? Many times we can put the schedule aside to ‘receive’ the feelings. But not always! Just yesterday my son was incensed that he had to ride in a different carseat because we were giving another child a ride to school…and we had to go and I could not allow the other child to be late. Sometimes the world cannot flex around feelings…just the realities of life in the trenches that I am trying to reconcile with this way of thinking. Thank you for your time 🙂

        • avatar Beth says:

          I think part of it is you can physically prevent a child from hitting. You can’t prevent them from saying nasty things, only decide how to react to them after they’ve been said.

      • Hi Amy,

        I wanted to jump in because what you describe is something I’ve gone through so much (with my three children!). What I’ve learned to do in situations like that is accept the feelings (by saying, “I can see you really don’t want to sit in the other car seat”) and perhaps giving a moment for a release of feelings, but then not accepting the behavior, “but we need to go, so I have to put you in the other car seat now”. (I will also often give a choice — “you can sit in the other car seat yourself, or I can lift you and buckle you in”) In the process if there’s hitting/kicking/throwing things, then I say, “I know you’re upset about having to sit in the other car seat, but I’m not going to let you hurt me”. In this way, I acknowledge and accept that my child is upset about not having his way, but it doesn’t mean derailing the schedule we need to stick to.

        • avatar Amy Swint says:

          Thanks for your thoughts and concrete idea, Suchada. Appreciated! -Amy

          • avatar janet says:

            Wonderful response, Suchada, thank you!

          • avatar janet says:

            Amy, I understand your discomfort with the feelings, but any effort you make to limit them will likely backfire, undermine your child’s emotional health and create more of these outbursts. It would help me to understand how you perceive tantrums… What do you think tantrum’s are?

            There are 2 important ways we can help children learn, as they mature, to control their outbursts and tantrums:

            1. Modeling empathy and self-control, which means being the “grown-up”, rather than reacting, getting triggered, taking the behaviors personally, engaging, worrying, believing it our job to control our child’s emotions, etc. Children emulate our anger and yelling.

            2. Allow and accept the feelings so that they are fully expressed and “normalized” for the child (while we hold the boundary around getting into the carseat, etc.).

      • avatar Cecille says:

        Excellent advice and guidance. Every teacher and parent need this response printed out. Always so much to learn.

    • avatar kimberly says:

      Hi Amy,

      It was interesting to read your post. I felt the only thing that might be useful to you is the thought that your son is trying the best he can to deal with the situation with the limited tools he has available. He really is trying his best.

      He’s not going to stop having tantrums because he is told it’s unacceptable. He’ll stop because he learns more effective ways to express his feelings and get his needs met.

      That’s the basis for accepting the feelings in the tantrum, because the idea is that it makes it easier to teach him an better way.

      Best wishes

  2. avatar Jessica says:

    Thank you for the perfectly timed encouragement. I have to remind myself daily, struggles aren’t bad and challenges are good, they help us grow and stretch and learn. I will strive for calmness and clarity, I am ready for tomorrow!

  3. What a great success story, thank you for sharing it, Janet. We have been very consciously and consistently following the “accept, acknowledge, support” approach with our 2 year old, and I witnessed an unexpected consequence of it the other day. I was having a difficult conversation with my husband, and got fairly upset and crying, which happens rarely. My son was playing in another room, but wandered in and saw me upset and crying. I decided I didn’t want to fake a smile or lie to him, but just tell him the truth: that I am crying because I am feeling sad and upset, just like it happens to him sometimes, and that it is going to pass. His reaction was so calm. He looked up at me with, I’m pretty sure, empathy. He seemed concerned, but not disregulated. He didn’t cry or seem uncomfortable or scared. He just stood there with me for a little while, then went on playing, and came back to check on me a few minutes later. It’s as if he was giving me the support and acceptance part, and I obviously did the acknowledging part for myself and his sake. As if he found it completely normal that we all have strong negative emotions sometimes and yet the world doesn’t crumble around us…

    • avatar janet says:

      Beautiful story, Helene! I loved the way you shared with your boy about your feelings. He would be likely to see right through the fake smile and become uncomfortable with your unease.

      Yes, children DO understand strong feelings…because they are very familiar with them within themselves. It’s so wonderful that you have helped your boy recognize and normalize these feelings, Helene!

  4. avatar Laurence P says:

    Hi Janet,

    What a great success story ! I experienced the same things with my son though he is very young. Feelings usually stop sooner than I expect when I just take him in my arms or stay there with him not trying to make them go.

    However I’m the only one who acts like that. His Nanny usually tries to distract him whe he cries when I leave. And I must say I don’t know how to tell this very experienced woman I think she shouldn’t try to do this (when I don’t know exactly what to tell her to do).

    And more importantly, his father hasn’t the same approach : he hushes him when he thinks his crying has been too long, or makes faces to make him laugh… I find it very difficult to step in because I spend a lot of time with our son, I do most of the “caring job”. So I think he feels a little dispossessed. Even though he doesn’t seem to want another place (when I asked him to do one bath a week he did it so reluctantly I eventualy took the job back, when I’m here he changes diapers only when I ask him…) So, even though some things disturb me and don’t feel right to me, I don’t want to interfere in their interactions… He didn’t read the RIE material I suggested him, and I think he doesn’t want me to tell him how to be a father.

    I’m thinking that the most important is that at least his mom allows him to live his feelings, but I think it would be best if both parents were thinking the same way. Maybe is he afraid that his son won’t become a strong man ? 😉

    • avatar janet says:

      Hi Laurence! Since you are the primary cargiver you will have the greatest influence, for sure. I understand the discomfort and impatience most people have with the feelings, but I wish there was some way to convince them that “strength” and emotional self-control stem from a deep sense of comfort with self! Children gain this comfort and self-confidence when they have been convinced through our words and actions that all of their feelings are normal, acceptable, okay.

  5. avatar Elizabeth says:

    Hi Janet,
    Being there for “the storm” can feel so right, especially when you see them calm and melt because their frustration, anger and struggles have been witnessed and their experience of how hard life can be, has been validated.

    I have a 6 and 3 year old. My question has to do with the 6 year old. Now that he is in Grade one I am finding that his language has become quite negative of late. When he is angry he often will call myself, my husband and my daughter names when he is angry. “Mommy you are stupid, you are the worst, shut up, etc.”

    Is how we handle these situations any different with a 6 year old? Do they need to be held more accountable with their language then a toddler? What is the best way to handle rude language? (…It just seems to have crept into our home, and not just when they are angry…)

    Any tips would be much appreciated!
    Great blog, thank you.
    Elizabeth

    • avatar Rose says:

      Hi Elizabeth, just a few thoughts: most likely this new bout of name-calling is something he’s picking up at school, probably from hearing other children use it on each other, maybe, unfortunately, on him. It might be helpful if you sat down with him at a calm moment to talk about where he’s hearing these words and how they’re being used. He and his friends might just be goofing off on the playground (keep in mind that elementary school is very stressful for children–just like a job for adults, so he needs to let off steam!), but he needs to understand how hurtful it is to say them to people he loves. If it’s more than just an isolated incident (especially if there’s some kind of bullying going on), you should talk to his teacher so s/he can address it in class.

      Of course a 6-year-old should be held more accountable for his language than a toddler! He’s got a whole arsenal of coping mechanisms that smaller children don’t have. But kids test boundaries at every age, so it’s always important to let them know where they are in age-appropriate ways.

      And remember, a 3-year-old is bound to mimic anything her adored older brother does (and may not distinguish between doing it in anger and doing it just for fun, as you say it happens even when no one’s upset), so you’ve got to work both fronts to discourage it. Maybe getting your older one to understand that he has a lot of influence on his sister, and enlisting him to help her behave well, would help!

      I’ll turn it back over to Janet now for more, better advice 🙂

  6. avatar monica ryan says:

    Really enjoyed this post! Thanks Janet!

  7. Thank you for linking to me, Janet! Acknowledging feelings in this way is the most valuable tool in my parenting toolbox and transformed my relationship with my children in the same way Anna describes.

  8. avatar Tyrell says:

    Hello Janet!

    Thank you so much for all your dedication and passion! I just found your blog, and it is WONDERFUL!

    I don’t actually have any children, but I am an Early Childhood Educator, and I have a nephew who is 16 months old.

    I have a question for you, regarding acknowledging feelings and setting limits for my nephew. His parents are feeling really overwhelmed right now by a certain streak of ‘defiance’ and testing, which has been manifesting itself as screaming and yelling, and which began a few months ago. Specifically, my nephew will yell and scream at his caregivers whenever he is angry. Until recently, we have been responding by telling him “No screaming” and oftentimes moving him from wherever he is, or distracting him, trying to get at the root of what he is upset about, etc., but he still continues to show this behavior(obviously he must be getting something out of it!).

    Now however, his parents have started putting him in isolated time-outs in response to his screaming, and I feel like this is really poor solution.

    How do you set appropriate limits for children who do not always have a clear idea of what your words mean? How do you set a new boundary for this child, when he is already so familiar with this negative behaviour?

    Any help you can offer would be appreciated very very much, and I will be sure to tell them how important it is to acknowledge and accept his feelings.

    Thank-you!

    • avatar janet says:

      Hi Tyrell! Thank you for your kind words!

      Your nephew will ease up on the testing and screaming when these behaviors stop being “really overwhelming” for his parents. This obviously requires a leap of faith and a clear understanding of respectful boundary-setting. Here’s my most popular post on the subject: http://www.janetlansbury.com/2010/04/no-bad-kids-toddler-discipline-without-shame-9-guidelines/

      Your nephew can understand everyone’s words, but he will need people to gently follow through with actions that “help” him stop acting out in the moment. The punishments and emotional reactions on the part of the parents diminish trust and exacerbate the behavior. Toddlers are impulsive and need lots of reminders. They need guidance rather than punishments and scoldings.

      I advise not being reactive at all to the screaming and yelling. Screaming and yelling are appropriate expressions of anger and frustration for a toddler. Just acknowledge, “You got very upset.” “You have a strong feeling about that.” “You really wanted the candy.”

      He will pass through this phase if everyone can stay calm, but if he is getting screamed or yelled at, it’s going to be almost impossible for him to stop doing those things.

      Hope this helps!

  9. avatar Sara says:

    Hi Janet,

    I have two questions regarding “tantrums”, that I would greatly appreciate your thoughts on. “Tantrums” with the “-s since I feel that for my 20 month-old son they are more emotional outbursts.

    First let me express my gratitude for your very practically applicable and awesomely inspiring posts. As it all trickles down you affect and help a great deal of kids all over this planet.

    This particular kid (my son) lives in Sweden, and he has just this week started having these outbursts whenever something is not going how he had planned or wanted it to go. Anything from that his magnetic cars won’t stick together facing the wrong way to him accidentally bumping into something while backing, to more obvious things, like me not giving him more spaghetti at a point in time when his plate is already sky high with spaghetti. He gets very upset, frustrated and cries and screams.

    Question number 1: I feel I am able to remain calm, and I try to acknowledge his feelings (I see you are very upset. Looks like you are very angry right now. The cars won’t stick together that way, that’s frustrating etc). But I feel that he is screaming so loudly so how could he possibly hear anything of what I am saying? With my voice still calm?

    Question number 2: When he gets upset most often runs off a few steps then throws himself on the floor for a few seconds, and then some sort of “dance” commences. He cries, comes over to me, grabs my hand, if I walk with him (he is screaming this whole time) he walks aimlessly and then throws himself on the ground while holding my hand. If I stay where I am (I am trying to acknowledge his feelings during all of this) he runs off into a separate room and howls so my heart secretely breaks for a few minutes then comes back and tugs at my hand again.

    I don’t know what to do and I have the feeling he hasn’t got a clue what he wants which is worse. Is it wrong at this time to lift him up and hold him while the whole tantrum lasts? If it involves holding him (gently but firmly) while he struggles, bends, kicks, screams and pushes at me? Or should I just stay and let him run off?

    Sorry for the length of this post.

    /Sara

  10. avatar Sarah Richardson says:

    Thanks for the timely post. I am also interested in your response to Sara as I have a similar question regarding trying to acknowledge feelings while my child is screaming at the top of her lungs. How can she possibly hear me?
    Also, how do I get my husband on board with acknowledging the feelings and letting them run their course? I work full time and my husband is the primary caregiver. When I get home from work around dinner time the girls are obviously hungry for my attention. We end up having a lot of melt-downs during dinner, and my husband does not want to listen to screaming while eating his dinner. I end up taking my 3 year old out of her high chair, into her room so she can express herself without upsetting my husband or her 1 year old sister. Then the 1 year old will get upset because I’m no longer there to interract with her. It seems like a no-win situation for me, because no matter what I do, someone is unhappy. Thanks for any advice. I love your blog.

  11. avatar Ness says:

    Hi Janet, I’m in the process of implementing some of your suggestions in my interaction with my daughter (turned 4 in May). I have a quick question about how to enforce “I won’t let you”. My daughter tends to hit and kick when she’s upset (usually by a limit we give her). When she hits, I’ve started holding her hand(s) while saying “I won’t let you hit me”, but then she starts kicking, and I end up having to wrestle her down to keep her from kicking as well. It feels awful and she screams that it hurts (even though I just try to restrain her, not hurt her).

    What would be your recommendation on how to handle this? Thanks for your help!

    • avatar janet says:

      Hi Ness, I would work on doing your best to calmly block her rather than wrestling her down (which is making these interactions into a bigger event than they need to be). If she get’s a couple of kicks in, you might need to calmly move away. While you are blocking her, be sure to acknowledge, “You really wanted to do such-in-such. You are so angry that I said no. You seem furious.” I would focusing on saying those kinds of things rather than “I won’t let you…” Sounds like she needs your help getting those feelings out in an acceptable manner… Encourage her to scream and yell, stomp her feet or hit pillows, if she needs to.

      • avatar Ness says:

        Thanks for your quick response!

        “Encourage her to scream and yell, stomp her feet or hit pillows, if she needs to.”

        There may lie part of the problem. Her father does not like screaming and yelling at all, and doesn’t think they’re an acceptable way to get out feelings. Maybe I need to work on him as well…

        • avatar janet says:

          Hmmm… How would he like her to express the feelings? She’s not quite able to sit and have a genteel discussion about them. 😉

          • avatar Ness says:

            GOod question. I should ask him. He doesn’t like screaming/yelling in general (granted, who does?!) and claims that he never sreamed as a child (and neither did his parents). I think this may be a case of selective memory…but even if, just because he didn’t, why shouldn’t she be able to?

            Maybe that would be a good future post (that I could then direct him too ;-)) -what are developmentally appropriate ways of expressing feelings for each age/stage. Or do you have one already? I tried to search but didn’t find one specifically addressing this.

  12. avatar April says:

    Hi! I had a few questions- and it is possible I haven’t read enough of your blog and the answers may be somewhere. My question is- so when my son is upset, mad, frustrated, etc i acknowledge his feelings and let him know I am there is that how I should respond? Should I teach him ways of dealing with his anger like taking a deep breath and count to four, etc or just let him get it out of his system? Also, any suggestions on dealing with the mine phase? When his younger brother who is ten months old gets anywhere near toys he starts grabbing all the toys and screaming mine- so it feels like I referee all day. Thank you in advance for your help!

  13. avatar Kelly says:

    Hi Janet, I have only recently discovered your blog and I’m trying to read as much as possible to try and change the way I react to situations. Sadly I didn’t find it in time to help ease my eldest son (6) through his toddler years, but hopefully I can change how I react to situations now both for him and his siblings. However, in the short term I am struggling with what to do when he hits his siblings. Over the past couple of days he has punched him twice, which is an escalation from any previous hitting. In the past he responded well to being rewarded for NOT hitting but I am not sure if this is a good thing to be doing or what to do when it happens. It hasn’t happened at times that I could intervene in time (once in the car, once when I was dealing with the 2 year old in another room) so what can I do, other than say “I can’t let you hit” (too late!) any advice?

    Many thanks

  14. avatar Karen says:

    My kids are both older now, they are 14 and 10, and I’m afraid I’ve missed this window to deal with it when they were toddlers. Now that they are older they are able to articulate their negative feelings in ways that aren’t kicking, screaming, or hitting, but which I still find quite emotionally hurtful. They complain about almost everything: the food I make them for breakfast and dinner, school, music lessons, sports practice, church, family activities. I feel like I hear “I don’t want to!” several times a day, every day, from both of them. Yesterday my 10-year-old told me, very seriously, “you know mom, kids don’t really like learning!”

    I know everyone has negative feelings, but I am so tired of the negativity I get from my family that I have been pulling away emotionally. I think the advice to accept the negative feelings sounds right somehow, but I’m not sure I even can do it.

  15. avatar Tracy says:

    I practice this with my two young kids and feel it is the best response – but sometimes, my daughter (just turned 5) is aggressive in her reaction – hitting at me, throwing things, screaming – and if I try to hold her or her hands, she may get more angry and lash out with feet to kick (once throwing things at me when I moved away from the kicking). I’m not sure how strongly to “hold” her or even how to best “protect” myself and prevent throwing while accepting her angry reaction. Can you possibly talk more specifically about managing aggression in a tantrum?

  16. avatar Rebecca says:

    Great post, Janet. It has been so freeing for us to accept our daughter’s feelings, and to let her crying run its course rather than trying to get her to stop by distraction or other means. An interesting twist lately has been that, when in mid-meltdown, she will often yell “don’t LOOK at me like that!!!” I would characterize my expression as sympathetic or concerned — but she really doesn’t seem to like it. Should I just not look at her at all? That feels like ignoring her or freezing her out. Looking at her in an impassive, unconcerned way doesn’t feel right either. But I also don’t want to continue looking at her in a way she’s telling me she doesn’t want or like! . . . I’m curious if you have encountered this before, or what you would do, if you have any insights.

  17. avatar Emma says:

    Hi Janet,

    I am having such problems with my 3 year old at the moment. His little brother was born 5 months ago and he has taken it pretty badly. His dad works about 70 hours a week and so it’s pretty much me and the boys most days which can be very intense. I do have a community of friends but am fairly new to my area so no real community i can lean on yet. My question to you is how to handle my preschoolers angry outbursts. Every day he tries to hit and push and pinch his baby brother and when friends children come round he pushes them around too which doesn’t make it easy to build the community i so long for. The other day I went to the toilet and left the boys in the same room and when i came back one minute later my eldest had baby brother face down on the bed with duvet covering him entirely and was pushing down on his head. Basically he was suffocating him. I go through moments of trying to firmly tell him i won’t let him do that, and tell him i know how hard it is to share me and to see me feeding his brother and loving someone else, but at times I’m so exhausted with this that i shout at him and once threw him across the bed in anger. Please help by offering me some sort of advice. Many thanks.

  18. avatar Amy says:

    I am a 35 year old stay at home mom with 3 boys,ages 13,5,& 3..AND one more due in April!!
    I am so depressed, feel like I’m losing my mind,I have no control over a single thing,seems like everyone just dislikes each other,should I go on??
    To top it off, my also pregnant sister is living with us and the father completely dropped out of the picture so my very loving fiance and I have been taking care of her and her every need for several months now..
    One good thing in the very near future is that we are all moving in with my parents, thank goodness!!
    We will all have more room,more privacy, and my boys will have a nice big fenced in backyard to play in (we are currently in a 2bedroom apartment)..
    I feel so alone with this whole moving thing..MY sister is the one person I was counting on to help me start packing up and getting rid of the things that we do not need anymore..
    Every time I am ready to start with something, she disappears into the bedroom and I find her with lights out and sleeping!!
    How in the world do I get through to her about this moving thing?? She knows that we only have about 3 weeks to get out of here and seems like she totally expects me and my fiance to do all the work!! Could she be feeling like this BC the majority of the stuff that has to be moved is ours and not much is hers??
    I am seriously about to break!! I need her more than anything right now and I really absolutely feel used up and so much taken advantage of!!
    Please help..
    What do I need to do to get through to her and earn just a little respect and a lot of help within the next few weeks???

  19. avatar MarcosMom says:

    I love this article. This is how I deal with my son’s feelings from the start. He’s 4 now, and he never has tantrums, if he’s upset he tells me Mom, I’m angry and I’d like to break the tv cause u won’t let me watch any more cartoons. I tell him okay, Marco. It’s ok for u to be angry, but we can do Something other instead. It’s not healthy for u to watch tv so much. Then he asks why. And we talk.And talk. And, while talking, we come to another solution to spend our time together. And, before we go to sleep he tells me, Mom, I’m not angry anymore.So we talk why he’s not angry anymore. And we’re happy cause we talk a lot.

  20. avatar Brooke says:

    This is a great article Janet, thank you! It took me a while to understand what ‘being OK with emotions’ was all about but when I finally ‘got it’ the stress seemed to dissolve in our house! Emotions aren’t a permanent state and so when I’m finding it hard to support my kids through their big emotions, I remind myself of this. ‘This too shall pass’ is one of my favorite mantras. Thanks again! Brooke

  21. avatar Sheri says:

    I hope it is ok to put a link in here. This is a blog I just read that fits with this so well. I think we can all relate to this author which can help the next time your toddler is throwing a fit because he didn’t get to use the blue cup!

    https://amyswass.com/2016/05/04/i-just-needed-to-cry-with-him/

    I Just Needed To Cry With Him
    Posted on May 4, 2016 by awass7712
    Last night I was in some kind of funk. It started in the afternoon.

    I don’t know what triggered it or why it happened, but I was grumpy and in a bad mood, and I hate when that happens! I hate it because I know that when I’m in a mood like that I’m not nice to my husband.

    That’s part of marriage, though. Vows should include something like this: “I promise to love you forever, even when I see the worst parts of you. When you’re a grump and no one knows why, I will remember that you are more than that, and I’ll love you through it.” Because people need to really know what they’re getting into.

    Anyway, back to last night. My mood was made worse when our lawn mower (that we just had fixed the day before) stopped working. I love mowing the lawn, and I had looked forward to it all day. I had also looked forward to going for a long bike ride with my husband, but we had to take the stupid mower back to the shop, so we didn’t have time. That also made everything worse.

    I had hoped that maybe we could still go on a short bike ride when we got home, but my husband got a call from work and had to go help resolve a problem.

    Then I remembered I forgot to take my birth control pill this morning, and things started making sense. One of the reasons I hated taking it when we first got married was because I would get really grumpy at least once a week for no reason, but it’s what I have to do right now, so I just have to suck it up.

    I went on a bike ride all by myself. It wasn’t long. I almost started crying at least 10 times while I biked along. Again, I have no idea why I was going to cry (hormones???). Seriously. Not getting to mow the lawn doesn’t make me that upset. But the whole time I was just thinking, “I don’t want to cry by myself. I want to be with Jamin.”

    After an hour, my husband got back home and I got there shortly after. I was still in a funk. When we got inside, he pulled me onto his lap and prayed for me. All the tears came out, and I’m still not exactly sure why. I felt so much better after just crying it out in my love’s arms.

    He is seriously the best. After a whole evening of me just being super rude and grumpy, he wasn’t mad or bitter. He just kept loving me.

  22. avatar Thespina Arcure says:

    Good article!

  23. avatar Diana says:

    Hi Janet. I love your blog and book and I have been trying to follow a lot of the advice regarding allowing kids to have their feelings and being there for them and not punishing them for their feelings. However, one aspect of this that I struggle with recently is what do I do when my 3yo daughter’s language hurts my husband’s feelings?

    She will tell him things like “go away” or when he says he loves her she will respond with “I don’t love you”. This is not always, but enough that it’s wearing him down. Most of the time they are great together but she lashes out whenever he tries to set limits with her and she gets mad. With me, even when she gets mad, she still wants me around. But with him she will say really harsh things. And while I don’t want to dismiss her feelings or punish her for saying them, I feel like it’s hurting their relationship. No parent wants to hear their child tell them they don’t love them or they want them to be sad. We parents are only human and our feelings get hurt. How are you as a parent supposed to “support” that?

  24. avatar Kelly says:

    I think it’s so interesting and lovely that her daughter is able to continue to play nearby while the ‘Storm’ is going on. I’ve noticed that when parents do not remain calm in the face of this storm that the tension just bounces off the walls of the room. If by standing adults feel tense, imagine how the child feels as the recipient of harsh words from their parent. It must be hard enough for them to go through those big feelings even WITH support – but without support must be intensely distressing. Adults, please be the calm of the storm!

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