How often do parents tell their children to "Use their words!" or "Talk clearly because I can't understand you when you're whining like that'. These attempts are made with good intentions, trying to get the communication going, but mostly, when children whine and shriek, it's because they simply lack the words to communicate what they feel.
Giving our children the words to tell us how they feel, what's upsetting them, is something we have to do. It can start early on, from when they're babies. But even if you didn't start then, there's always time to hand your child the right words.
Now how to do this?
First a couple of guide rules
- Never add a judgement to the emotion
- pick positive words
- avoid blaming
- don't use always and never
Pinpoint your emotionsWhenever you are overwhelmed by emotion, make it clear how you feel. Between your sobbing, tell your child "I am so sad because...", when you're angry, tell them you are angry and how exactly it makes you feel. "I am so angry! My throat hurt and I feel like I could punch something. I can feel my blood racing through your body" Not only is this a good exercise to be mindful of your emotions, it might help you to overcome a strong sense of overwhelm.
Name their emotions
- I feel like you are getting very tired, would you like me to read you a story?
- I think you're sad because you can't find your doll, would you like us to look together?
- I understand that it's frustrating when mommy cooks something you don't like. Would you rather go and pick something from the fridge with me?