Big kid emotions, big parenting challenge

When I think back to when my kids were growing up, I remember having such a hard time managing their emotional outbursts.  Like many parents I wanted certain behaviours to stop – yelling, slamming doors, and the one that really pushed my buttons, name-calling.  Whenever my kids did these things out of anger or frustration, I found myself angry and frustrated with them.  There were days when I felt like I was doing a terrible job at helping my kids manage their own stress and emotions.  Have you been wondering what to do about your child or teen’s “temper tantrums,” “meltdowns,” “freak-outs” or “explosions?”

Here are some ways you can help your children learn to regulate their emotions:

  • Provide as much stability and consistency as possible at home. This helps children develop the emotional resources to deal with the less predictable world outside.
  • Accept your child’s emotions and responses. Children’s emotional outbursts are not deliberate attempts to make parenting difficult. “Tuning in” to understand your child’s emotions helps the child learn to cope with emotional tension.
  • Talk about your own feelings. Modeling the use of language to identify feelings helps children to express their own emotions.
  • Encourage children to talk about their feelings. All feelings are normal and natural. Avoid saying things like, “don’t be sad” or “You shouldn’t be angry.” It is always ok to talk about our feelings but it is not always ok to act on our feelings. The goal is to teach children to control their behaviour and not feelings. Encourage your child to label their feelings and listen carefully without judging or giving advice.
  • Model self-control. Our children imitate our behaviours so it is important to reflect on how we handle our emotions. Instead of exploding you can say, “I’m getting frustrated, I better stop and calm down before I can continue.”  Also, stay calm during your child’s emotional outburst.
  • Teach how to use positive self-talk. Children who use negative self talk get angry more easily than children who use positive self talk. Teach children to practice positive self talk such as, “He didn’t do it on purpose, it was an accident” or “With more practice I’ll get it.”
  • Work with your child to figure out which situations upset them the most and problem-solve different strategies together. Practicing how to handle a situation that makes them angry helps children learn to control their behaviour. You can review a problem that has recently occurred, label the emotions involved, and go over how your child might have handled the situation in a different way.
  • Praise your child’s efforts to regulate their emotions.  You may say, “You were patient while waiting for your brother.” You can also ask, “How did you do that?” so that both you and your child can learn what strategies helped in that situation.

Through reading, participating in parenting courses, support groups, trusting friends whose parenting I admired, and self-development, I learned about the skill and the art of connecting with my children. They are all in their adulthood now and I think that they would agree with me when I say that I still have a wonderful relationship with them all.

FYI, there is also a great book available at your local library called “Time-in Parenting: How to teach children emotional self-control, life skills, and problem solving by lending yourself and staying connected.” By: Otto Weininger, Ph.D; ISBN  0-9730905-0-2 Check it out!

Share your experience:

To share your experience, or to get more information about managing your child’s emotions, you can talk to one of us directly:

  • Leave us a comment below – we’d love your feedback
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter
  • Email us at
  • Dial 311 or 905-825-6000 for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

About this guest blogger:

Wendy Ziemiak, RN is a Mental Health Liaison Nurse who works with elementary school and high school students in Burlington. She also works at the walk-in Reach Out Centre For Kids (ROCK) in the Burlington location as part of the multi-disciplinary team.

This entry was posted in Children & Tweens, Emotional Well-Being & Mental Health for Your Child/Tween, Emotional Well-Being & Mental Health for Your Teen, Parenting, Parenting Your Child/Tween, Parenting Your Teen, Parenting Your Toddler & Preschooler, Play, Growth & Development, Teens, Toddlers & Preschoolers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Big kid emotions, big parenting challenge

  1. Bill Dane says:

    Your article is so good I’ve bookmarked it already.

  2. My toddlers are very emotional too so I will try what you’ve suggested.

  3. Louise says:

    My son has what I think are panic attacks at school when the teachers yell at him and scare him. The school says that he has to “get his crying under control” and “regulate his behaviour”. How do you teach a child to not respond when they are scared?

    • Cindy Zizek says:

      Hi Lousie,

      Wendy Ziemiak, the author of the blog has responded below. Please check your inbox as we have emailed you as well.

      Cindy from the Halton Parents team.

      When children are scared we can expect them to respond with a range of feelings, thoughts and behaviours.

      When we become aware of our child’s feelings, hear their thoughts and see their behaviours, then we have information that we can work with and begin to help them regulate their emotions. We help children regulate their emotions using containment, validation and attunement (explained below). In addition, we need to help children manage their worried-thinking and help them problem-solve. We also need to model our own emotional regulation.

      Containment and Validation:

      When your child comes home from school upset, your first response can be to validate their feelings by saying, “I see that you upset, are you feeling frustrated, angry, worried, or is something else going on?”

      In that moment the child may need to have some form of physical contact, so you may ask, “Do you need a hug?”

      Give your child the message that you are interested in hearing all about it. You can also tell yourself that you will refrain from overreacting when you hear something that may trigger you.


      Can you appreciate that your child’s experience was upsetting? If so, let your child know that, ” I can understand why this situation would be upsetting to you “, and then, listen some more.

      Problem Solving:

      When your child has calmed down and is ready to move into problem-solving mode, you can ask them how they would like to address the problem. Then discuss the pros and cons of their ideas.

      You can also ask if you can add your ideas and if your child wants your assistance in putting any of those ideas into action.

      Reassure your child that you can be a team to work through these challenging situations together.

      Practicing these ideas of containment, validation, attunement and problem-solving, strengthens the bond between you and your child and increases the likelihood that your child will come to you with future problems.

      Communication with the teacher:

      The teacher may not be aware of the impact she/he is having on your child and perhaps a conversation with your that teacher is needed. Teachers welcome information that helps them better understand their student’s sensitivities, triggers and learning preferences. Teachers can also make adjustments to accommodate their student’s needs.

      Panic Attacks:

      A panic attack is a form of anxiety.

      A consultation with a mental health practitioner is recommended to confirm or clarify your hunch about it being a panic attack. In the mean time you can refer to resources to learn more about the effects of anxiety on children.

      Canadian Psychiatric Research Foundation
      Centre of Knowledge Of Healthy Child Development
      Anxiety BC

  4. Pingback: Snivy lives upstairs – Making self-regulation your own | HaltonParents

  5. Pingback: Positive parenting. Is it worth it? | HaltonParents

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