How to improve family relations by validating your children's emotions

The act of validating children’s emotions is a crucial part of effective parenting.

Breanne Anderson and Christina Toliver

Jul 26, 2013   |   197 views   |   16 shares
  • Imagine that you are a 4-year-old again, and your grandparents gave you a beautiful golden teddy bear with a bright red ribbon around its neck. You took this teddy bear with you everywhere and it was your closest friend. One busy morning, you were rushed from the house to get to the sitter's before you grabbed your teddy bear. When you realized the absence of your friend, you started to cry, how could you be expected to go to the sitter's house without your beautiful golden teddy? Fear, loneliness and despair overwhelmed you as your mom buckled you in and took off down the road. After your excessive crying your mom turned to you and said, “Why are you so upset, you can get your teddy when you get home. It’ll still be there when you get back.”

    Now fast forward to today. How would you feel if you forgot your phone and were forced to go to work all day without it? How would you feel if someone said, “Why are you so upset, you can get your phone when you get home. It’ll still be there when you get back.”

    The simple act of validating someone’s emotions can change the tone of a meltdown to a calm, collected conversation. Everyone wants their feelings to be acknowledged and try to be understood by others because it shows that people care about you.

    Emotions are a big part of our children's lives

    Emotions help drive us. They teach us and direct us in all aspects of life. Just like we want others to acknowledge how we feel, it's important to recognize your children’s emotions. One parenting study shows the importance of recognizing both children’s emotions as well as our own. By acknowledging emotions and validating how children feel, we can take these opportunities to teach children life lessons.

    Children can be taught how to define and even regulate their emotions. When we listen to how children feel, we show them that we care about their feelings and that we respect them. In his book, "Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child," John Gottman teaches that parents can raise emotionally intelligent children through "emotion coaching." In his book, he explains the importance of recognizing the emotions children have and how it can benefit them in the future and allow them to develop healthier interactions and increase positive feelings.

    Exercise positive discipline

    Positive discipline is a parenting technique that allows us to have a respectful relationship with our children. When we fight with our children it often leads to resentment, revenge, rebellion and retreat. Emotions are ignored or disregarded when people fight with one another. This leaves both sides angry with one another. There are ways to acknowledge a child’s emotions before you impose discipline. With a positive discipline approach, parents can act as a guide, promote self-control, encourage responsibility and help children make better choices.

    Redirect your child's anger

    Validation is a key component in redirecting children’s anger and frustration. This sets up a teaching opportunity that prevents them from directing their anger at the parent. This can be especially helpful when children make mistakes. Love and logic parenting experts teach that when a child makes a mistake, responding with phrases such as, “I told you so,” will only result in a loss of trust from the child. When we validate a child after he or she makes a mistake, we don’t have to be dismissing of the consequences of the mistake. We can show an understanding and unconditional love that provides children with the necessary trust they need to grow from the experience.

    Validate your child's emotions

    When you validate your children's emotions, you are able to see the situation from their perspective. When we take the perspective of our children and truly understand how they are feeling in that moment, we are able to validate their emotions. Alfie Kohn teaches three benefits of taking our children’s perspective.

    The first benefit of taking our children’s perspective is that it allows us to understand what the child is going through, especially if our child is unable to explain his or her motives. The second benefit is that it allows parents to be more patient with their children’s moods. The third benefit is that when parents practice taking their children’s perspective and communicate and validate their children, they are setting an example of the importance of validating others' emotions.

    The act of validating children’s emotions is a crucial part of effective parenting. When parents validate children they recognize that their children have emotions and are showing the children they love and care for them. This helps eliminate feelings of resentment and anger toward their parents. Validating children’s emotions has been proven to be successful in strengthening the relationship between parents and children. As adults, we often become offended and frustrated when people pass off or minimize our frustration. We don’t want to be ignored and neither do children. They may start to feel like we don’t care. What do you want someone to say to you when you’re upset, sad, frustrated or angry?

Breanne was born in Alberta Canada. She received an associates degree in professional preschool education. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in Child Development on July 23, 2013.

Christina graduated in July 2013 with a degree in Child Development and a minor in Psychology. Christina is from Oregon and is part of a large family. There have been many opportunities for her working with kids of all ages through jobs, volunteer experiences, and family relations.