Soothing Comes Before Solving

A Great Idea …
“At times of strong emotion there is nothing as comforting and helpful as a person who listens and understands.” (Child psychologist, Haim Ginott, in his book, Between Parent and Child, p. 28)

In Other Words …
When our children are feeling upset or angry, we often try to fix things right away. But, when humans are upset, we need comfort and compassion first and foremost. We are not ready to deal with problems until our feelings are settled. That is why children may want us to listen to them, feel their pain, and offer compassion rather than give instructions or lectures.

How This Applies to You …
The next time your child is struggling with a strong emotion, pause to understand his or her emotion. Put yourself in your child’s place and think about how you might feel in a similar situation. Express empathy to your child by saying things like, “It must have been embarrassing to get in trouble at school,” or, “You’re sad because your toy is broken.”

To Find Out More …

For an excellent (and free!) program on parenting, see The Parenting Journey at www.arfamilies.org and if your children are younger than six, check out See the World Through My Eyes.

For more in-depth reading, we recommend Between Parent and Child by Haim Ginott or Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman.

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  • Reply Amber July 11, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    I like this approach and try to offer compassion and listening first. But I get frustrated when it’s the sane emotional reaction to the same situation again and again, especially in a short period of time. What’s reasonable to expect from a five year old about carrying over a lesson from one emotional experience to the next time she has the same experience?

  • Reply Bobbi July 12, 2011 at 7:56 am

    You had a similar post recently that I really took to heart. Our ten-year-old “drama queen” is prone to explosive outbursts of emotion. I’ve found that as I’ve changed my approach to validating and soothing first, she has become more responsive to the counsel I want to give.

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