Life with children can be wonderful and unpredictable at the same time. All children are capable of puzzling behavior and it takes different forms. Their behaviors can sometimes take the form of tantrums, hitting, and yelling. Then there are behaviors that are harder to spot but light up parents’ radars like worry, sadness, or more loneliness than they should … this happens when they have a tendency to suppress feelings.
None of We were born knowing how to control emotions, and children will need time to learn it. This is normal, and you need to respect that time. In the meantime, our job as adults in children’s lives is to care for them and nurture their ability to manage their emotional responses in healthy, as well as adaptive, ways.
Of course, it would be wonderful if children learn by themselves to remain calm, to respond well to frustration, to control anger… but that is not possible. Young children don’t yet have the words to describe what they want or how they feel. The frustration of this can make them vulnerable.
Emotional self-regulation in children
Self-regulation is being able to manage feelings so that they do not interfere with daily relationships or quality of life. This could mean being able to resist losing control in upsetting or frustrating situations, or being able to calm down when big feelings – usually negative – come on the scene.
Self-regulation is not about « don’t feel’. Blocking feelings or repressing them can cause just as much trouble as any outburst. There is nothing wrong with having feelings – good or bad. All feelings are valid and children should know that they have every right to feel what they feel at the moment they do. What matters is how they manage those feelings, and that is what they must learn from the adult.
The key is to raise children towards the possibility of recognizing and expressing what they feel without feeling bad, and without causing physical or emotional harm to themselves or others.
The importance of emotional self-regulation
When children are able to regulate their emotional responses, they become less vulnerable to the impact stress continuum. They are also more likely to have adequate emotional resources to maintain healthy friendships and will have a better ability to focus and learn.Research shows that the ability to self-regulate is a strong predictor of academic success.
Outbursts are opportunities
Each outburst or tantrum is an opportunity to steer children in a different direction and to strengthen the skills they need to name and manage their emotions in a way that works for them, without the seismic consequences that can happen when children are unable to regulate their emotions.
High emotion and tantrums are not a sign of poor parenting or that your children are bad. Children are never bad, they just have tantrums or bad behavior because they don’t know how to regulate themselves emotionally. When they have this behavior, you probably feel that it is difficult to transmit good values, but the reality is that it is a great opportunity to do so. You’re raising little human beings, and as difficult as it may seem, it’s the most important thing a parent can do.
Even if your child has a tantrum in the middle of a mall and you’re at the center of all the looks, it is important that you focus on your child and their emotions, don’t worry about feeling alienated from what is around you. Your son needs you more than ever.