Accept their feelings

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I stubbed my toe on the bed leg last night. Now tell me that didn’t hurt. What? Didn’t hurt, you say? How can you say that? It hurt like crazy! And how come you think can you tell me whether my toes hurts or not? (Okay, that’s not fair – I did ask you to say it, didn’t I.) But, as parents, we often spend kids telling them what they are feeling. “You are cold! Put that jersey on.” “You can’t be hungry! You only just had tea.” “Shush. That didn’t hurt!” How can we tell a kid that it didn’t hurt or that they’re not upset or that they not frightened?

Accepting a child’s feelings is accepting them – let them know you have heard them by echoing it back and that you care. Amazingly, this actually makes children behave better, because a child who feels right acts right. And being heard and cared about definitely helps you feel right. You don’t necessarily have to accept what they are demanding, but you can accept how they feel. “Oh, you’re hungry. But in a little while we will have a nice supper so I don’t want you to eat anything now.” “I’m glad you’re not cold now, but I still want you to take you jersey because I expect it will get colder later.”

And if they say it hurt, give them your sympathy. Even in an age when doctors can prescribe all sorts of painkillers, the best comfort in the world is still a hug and a, “There, there” from your mum or dad. I wish I could have had one last night when I stubbed my toe.

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John Cowan

Writer, speaker and broadcaster, John Cowan shares his insight and opinions about the latest in parenting and family news in New Zealand. Hear John speak on radio stations every week throughout the country and regularly on national TV.  Follow @JohnCowanNZ on Twitter

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