Dr Becky taught me the idea of “Deeply Feeling Kids.” This idea has transformed my parenting as well as they way I coach my clients.
One of the metaphors she shared in her latest DFK workshops was comparing emotional regulation to learning to swim.
She says, “we don’t get mad at our kids for not knowing how to swim. We don’t leave them alone in the deep end.”
In the same vein, we shouldn’t get mad at our kids for not knowing how to regulate their emotions yet. We can’t teach them emotional regulation. They absorb emotional regulation from us.
What that looks like in my own parenting practice: when my younger daughter has a meltdown, I go to where she is, take her by the hand, and take her to another room. I offer a cuddle, which she may or may not accept. I allow her to vent about the monstrous things her sister is done while I make sympathetic noises.
Things I do not do: ask about my DFK’s role in the conflict, point out that my older daughter probably had a valid point, or label my DFK’s emotions.
(Imagine if you came home from work one day and said to your spouse, “Omg, my boss was such a jerk today!” And your loving spouse replied, “Wow, you sound really mad.” You would want to strangle them.)
I also don’t leave her alone to figure it out. I don’t punish her big feelings with a time-out.
I sit on the floor, or the couch, with her. I stay close. I tell her, “I believe your feelings. In this family, we believe each other’s feelings.” (This is another Dr. Becky gem.)
Believe it or not, these strategies have her reduced the frequency of her tantrums by 90%.
But the best effect of these strategies? Is believing, with all my heart, that when she grows up, she’ll want to stay close to me because I stayed close to her during these challenging times. Instead of big feelings tearing us apart, they are bringing us closer together.
With my clients, one of the challenges we work on is changing our beliefs about why our children act a certain way. If we believe it's a choice, we will react very differently than if we believe they are just out of their depth. I encourage my clients to always believe children always do the best they can.
Are you struggling to tame emotional meltdowns in your family? Schedule a complimentary life coaching call at
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Abby Wolfson is a pediatric nurse practitioner, certified child sleep consultant and certified life coach for parents. She divides her time between Brooklyn, NY and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.