One of the major goals of positive parenting is to raise emotionally intelligent children. Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand, evaluate, and regulate emotions.
In our pursuit to raise emotionally intelligent children, we need to understand the importance of accepting a child’s feelings.
When children cry, get angry or act out, the first thing parents try to do is get them to stop feeling that way. We often try to take away the hurt by trying to fix or smooth away the pain by offering them sweets or just smothering them.
Feelings are neither right nor wrong. They simply are what they are. We feel what we feel. What we do with those feelings, though, is extremely important, and that is a large part of emotional intelligence. It’s not about just understanding and accepting feelings but also teaching children appropriate actions around those feelings.
Do you know that it is okay for your child to express how they are feeling?
They are most often just asking you to affirm that it is okay to feel the way that they do. As humans, we are most often criticised for expressing our feelings, so we bottle them up. This is because we have been taught from childhood to negate our feelings.
“Validating feelings” might sound like a big word but it really means letting your child feel their feelings just like you would want to feel and express your own feelings.
Our children may feel anxious when they are starting a new class, they may feel sad that they don’t have friends, they may feel scared that they are getting shots when ill etc.
Validating the feeling means you let them know that it is OK to feel that way. Once we have and acknowledge an emotion, it will often go away on its own. If there is no course of action to take—if all we really need to do is accept it— feelings, once felt, begin to change themselves over time.
Validating the way, a child feels is an exercise in empathy. Once you tell your child that “It is okay to feel this way,” they won’t shut down and feel ashamed because when we point out how wrong they are to feel the way they do, they shut down.
This gives children the opportunity to calm down and they are usually open to appropriate actions instead of lashing out and trying to hurt others.
Teach your child that what they feel is different from what they do—that it is okay to feel angry, but not okay to hurt others or to act disrespectfully.
Children should learn that they can have power and control over themselves and their lives.
No one enjoys feeling powerless, and children prefer to know how they can contribute and succeed without having to fight for their needs. When your child is in a good mood, mention that you notice she is often angry and ask for her help to think of a way she could show her anger that won’t hurt anyone.
According to Anne Nelsen, children can learn resilience when they are allowed to have the experience of working through their feelings and learning that feelings pass and become distant memories.
Children can learn how to persevere (have sabr) from an early age when they are allowed to validate their feelings and work through their issues by themselves.
“Indeed, with hardship [will be] ease.” – Qur’an 94:5-6
As muslims, we know that life is a test and with each test comes with a lesson and in each test, there is ease.
The Prophet Mohammad (SAW) taught us some anger management tips which we can teach our children.
In a Hadith narrated by Ahmad and Abo Dawood (deemed authentic): The Prophet (SAW) said “If one of you got angry while standing then sit down, or if sitting down then lay down. If anger does not go away then do Wudu”.
The Prophet (SAW) also said, ‘I know a word which, if he were to say it, what he feels would go away. If he said “I seek refuge with Allah from the Shaytan,” what he feels (i.e., his anger) would go away’
You can also suggest listening to their favourite ayah or adhkar or finding a special cooling-off place. For older children, suggest they write down what they are angry about or to draw a picture of their anger.
Sometimes, we often make situations worse by responding to anger and aggression with more attempts to control and with intimidation. If you or your child feels angry, there may be a power struggle going on, and it is important to disengage from the power contest and work for cooperation.
Here are some suggestions offered by Anna Nelsen in her book, Positive Discipline A-Z.
- Validate your child’s feelings by saying; “You’re Really angry. It’s okay to feel angry, but can you tell me in words instead of actions who or what you are angry about?” Wait for the child’s response and listen with interest instead of saying, “You shouldn’t be angry.”
- Sometimes children can’t identify their feelings when they are upset. Let your child know it is okay to wait awhile and to talk with you as soon as he is ready.
- You can help your child defuse her anger by finding out (perhaps through guessing) what she wants and helping her obtain it, such as, “You’re angry because your sister gets to stay up later and you wish you could, too. When you are her age, you’ll be able to stay up as late as she does.”
- Don’t choose sides when your children fight because this is one of the primary triggers for children’s anger. Instead, put them in the same boat and say, “Kids, I see you are having a hard time working this out. You can take some time to cool off and try again later, or you can both finish this
- Set up family meetings so your children know there is a place and time each week where they can talk about the things that bother them, be listened to, and find solutions to problems that are respectful to everyone.
I hope you would implement some of the lessons to validate your children’s feelings and you have learnt something? If yes, would you like to join me in the Parenting for Jannah Academy? You should join the waitlist HERE to be notified when next we are open.