Do you remember the last time you cried? As adults we rarely cry. Usually, we cry at the movies or when something truly bad happens. However, as we know, children cry very often. Why is that? Children cry whenever anything negative happens. They cry at appropriate times, like when they have an injury and at seemingly inappropriate times, like when her little brother moved her doll. This is because they have no sense of perspective to determine appropriate emotional responses. When they feel negative emotions they cry. This automatic response needs to be adjusted to depend on the facts and circumstances surrounding the cause of the negative emotions. But children cannot do this on their own, this is something we need to teach them.
Once children are at the age of understanding language we can begin to teach them about the varying emotions and the degree of emotions. A great tool for doing that is to use their fingers. If the child can use his or her fingers to count to ten, you could ask her to demonstrate how bad it feels by using her fingers. One for not so bad and ten for really bad. Remind her when she skinned her knee and how that hurt and was a ten, certainly worthy of a good cry and maybe even a sweet lollipop afterwards. So how many fingers is it now that your brother took and played with your Cinderella doll? Usually kids will be able to tell the difference between a one and a ten pretty quickly. You can take this opportunity to explain the difference to her and model appropriate responses for her.
Use the one to ten fingers trick to teach appropriate responses periodically and praise her when she reacts properly. However, if something happens that you think is a two and she says it’s an eight, and she’s serious. You should also take her seriously and treat it like an eight as you don’t ever want to minimize her feelings. The feelings of others must always be respected, whether you feel it is appropriate or not. Offer her a hug and some comfort.
At The Brook Academy, we make the effort to teach our children to understand their emotions. We act out different scenarios and model appropriate emotional responses and problem solving. Interactions between children are taken as opportunities to teach about emotions and appropriate behavior.
We would love to hear your thoughts. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any comments.