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Can young people be taught to control their emotions?

Tantrums, outbursts, moans, defiance and fights. These are all behaviors we see when children feel strong emotions that they cannot control. While some children have learned to behave like this, it gives them the attention they want or extra time on their electronic devices. Some other children have a real hard time staying calm because they are unusually sensitive.


Not only do they feel things exaggerated and quickly, they are often slower to return to a calm state as well, ” says Lindsay Geller, clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute.

“When children are overwhelmed by strong emotions, the emotional side of the brain does not communicate with the rational side, which regulates emotions and plans the best way to deal with the current situation,” added Geller. Experts call this process “dysregulated,” in which case it is not useful to discuss what is happening with the child, but wait until he calms down and becomes rational again.

Understanding your emotions

Babies don’t go from calm to anger in a single moment. But those feelings float like a wave that children can learn to control by noticing and categorizing their feelings early on, before the wave becomes too big to deal with. This is where parents come in to begin by helping children understand how their emotions work.

Many children grow up thinking of anxiety, anger, and sadness as bad feelings, says Stephanie Summer, clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute. But naming and accepting these feelings is the basis for solving problems and how to manage them.

Managing difficult emotions

You can help your child practice recognizing their emotions, and provide a model for doing it yourself. Try to rank the intensity of your emotions from 1 to 10, with 1 being very calm and 10 being angry. For example, if you forget something you intended to bring to your friend, you can admit that you are feeling frustrated and say your feelings are at the fourth grade. It might feel a little silly at first, but this method teaches kids to stop and notice exactly how they’re feeling.

Active Ignore

Ignoring behaviors such as whining, arguing, inappropriate language, or agitation is a way to reduce the chances of these behaviors being repeated. It’s called ignoring “active” because it clearly draws attention.

You turn your face and sometimes your body away or leave the room when your child engages in simple bad behaviors in order to gain your attention, Dr. Geller explains. But the key to its effectiveness is when your child has to do something good to get your attention again.

It is preferable to open the discussion about the reason for the previous exaggeration the son experienced (Getty Images)

Positive attention

The most powerful tool parents have in influencing behavior is attention. It’s like candy for kids, positive attention increases the behaviors you want your child to follow. When you are forming a new behavior in your child, you need to praise him to keep going.

If your child is in the midst of a tantrum and you see him inhale deeply from the air, you should clearly praise it.

Expectations are clear

Another key way to help prevent children from experiencing emotional reactions is to make clear what you intend to do. It is a good idea to give your child advance warning, such as stopping an activity in which they are participating and enjoying. This should help children feel ready. Say to your son, “In 15 minutes, we’ll be sitting at the dining table, so you need to turn off your PS4 at that time.”

It may still be difficult for them to comply, but knowing that is coming helps children feel more in control and stay calmer.

Give options

When children are asked to do things they would not like to do, it is best to give them options. This may reduce tantrums and increase acceptance of the fait accompli. For example, you might tell your child, “You can get ready for bed now and read a story together, or you can get ready for bed in 10 minutes and without a story.”

Discussing past emotions

It is preferable to open the discussion about the reason for the previous exaggerated excitement that the son experienced, although some parents avoid this after the end of the situation. However, involving the child in thinking about what happened, and developing strategies about what he could have done, may benefit in the near future when the child experiences the same feelings again.

The most powerful tool parents have in influencing behavior is attention (pixels).

Five minutes every day

Communicating positively with your child consistently, for 5 minutes at a specific time each day, can help the child manage stress during other times of the day. The time for positive communication with your child is characterized by being without commands, and it also includes ignoring any simple wrong behavior, just caring for your child and letting him take over.

When children feel anxious or stressed, these techniques can help them relax and regain their sense of control.

Calming techniques

Education writer Kate Kelly offers some self-soothing techniques for children, as follows:

Take a deep breath: Ask your child to breathe slowly through the nose, then exhale slowly through the mouth, and repeat this several times.

RelaxLie on the floor, place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. Have your child do the same. Close your eyes, tell your child to breathe slowly and deeply and imagine the tension escaping from it.

Get rid of stress: Holding a squeeze ball can help relieve stress, so encourage your son to play with clay or cuddle up to his favorite toy.

tough situationsWhen your son is anxious about taking an exam, for example, teach him strategies for replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.

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