Parenting Pathway #112: Acknowledge Children’s Feelings

Teaching children to know what their feelings are and to trust them builds independence and empowers your little one. But we often fail to do that well. Consider the following scenario:

Child: “I don’t feel pretty when I’m wearing pants. I want to wear a sun dress.”
Mother: “You’ll feel nice and warm wearing pants today.”
Child: “But I want to feel beautiful.”
Mother: “It’s cold out. You’re wearing pants!”
Child: “No. I don’t want to feel ugly!”

Here the Mother is not only teaching her child not to trust her own perceptions, but the conversation is turning into an argument because the child’s feelings were not acknowledged. Adel Faber and Elaine Mazlish, authors of the National Bestseller “How to Talk so Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk“, write about four skills you can use to help your children deal with their feelings.

These skills include:

  • Listening Quietly and Attentively. This includes direct eye contact at your children’s level! Look your children in the eyes by getting down to their level or by bringing them up to your level. My husband and I rarely sit on our great room furniture alone, if at all. We are often down on the floor with our children reading books or having a conversation. Also, you’ll often find my children, ages three (almost) and five, sitting on top of our kitchen and bathroom counter tops. I make sure I’m ALWAYS standing directly in front of them so they don’t fall and get hurt. And this way they get involved with what’s happening and can see me at eye level.
  • Acknowledge Your Child’s Feelings with A Word. Responding to your children’s expression of feelings with three simple words, “I see, Oh, and Mmm.”, can open the door for children to further explore and share their feelings. Saying these words with a loving tone and attitude can lead your children to find their own solutions.
  • Give Your Children’s Feelings A Name. This act acknowledges your children’s inner experience and can be very comforting to them. They feel heard and seen. To use this skill in the above scenario, the Mother could say to the child’s first or even second response, “Feeling beautiful is very important to you isn’t it?” Or for an older child, “You seem very passionate about feeling beautiful each day.”
  • Give Your Children Their Wishes in Fantasy. This tool allows your children to see that you understand just how much they want something and often makes it easier to accept the realities of life. A Mother using this tool in the above scenario might sound like this, “I wish I had a magic wand to help you feel beautiful no matter what you’re wearing.” Or, “Even though I think you’re beautiful no matter what you’re wearing, I wish I had magic powers to melt all of the snow outside so you could wear your sundress.”

In the coming week, I invite you to try these four skills with your children. Remember that breaking old habits can sometimes be a challenge, so be patient and forgiving with yourself when trying out these skills. Over the next several weeks I’ll share some of the other powerful skills discussed in Adel and Elaine’s book.

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May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Christina Lombardo, PCC, CPCC (
LifeTrek Coaching International
Columbus, OH

Telephone: 614-332-9747
Fax: 415-634-2301

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