Validating Your Child’s Feelings
What Does It Mean To Validate Feelings?
“Validating a child means letting them share their thoughts and feelings without judgment, criticizing, ridiculing or abandoning them.” Says, Dr. Marsha Linehan, Ph.D., clinical psychologist
Think about those times when your toddler or child just goes ballistic. Maybe they woke up and just can’t seem to shake off the cobwebs. Everything sets them off and no matter what you do or say, it just seems to make things worse. How about when your child gets in the car after a day at school and has a scowl so deep you’re afraid their face might get stuck that way? And there’s always the epic tantrum that comes out full force because you’ve told your child “no” or their favorite show has come to an end.
In situations like these, do you typically try to solve your child’s problem and make things better? Does it work?
What if were you were able to simply validate your child’s feelings to help them feel better?
Kids Need To Be Seen, Heard And Understood
When events like the above occur it has more to do with their feelings then the event itself. Your child wants to be seen, heard and understood. So, when they wake up crabby or have a bad day at school, they are striving to get your attention. When you recognize your child’s feelings and thoughts, you help them feel seen, heard and understood. Your child’s drive to feel seen and heard is a daily goal. This goal is often achieved through acts of power. Sometimes children try to reach their power goal with:
- Yelling or getting angry at you
- Back talk
- Ignoring you and what you’re asking them to do
- Lashing out with physical aggression
Comforting Does Not Equal Validation
Comforting is completely different from validating. Let’s look at an example to help make this clearer. For instance, Let’s say your child just played in a tennis tournament and they didn’t do as well as they wanted to;
You are offering comfort, praise and encouragement when you say something like,
“I thought you played great in your tennis match today!”
This can often make your child more upset because this is not how they are feeling. When you give your own opinion and try to comfort, you are telling your kids that they shouldn’t feel the way they are feeling. This does not help them feel seen, heard or understood.
But when you truly validate your child’s feelings you might say something like,
“It’s hard when you don’t play as well as you hoped you would.”
This phrase shows your child that you understand how hard it is to not feel you played your best. You are seeing, hearing and understanding their feelings.
Validating Is Not The Same As Fixing
When you validate your child’s feelings while on their emotional roller coaster of losing a sports game, having their favorite toy break or not doing well on an exam, you’re helping them feel seen, heard and understood. You’re not trying to fix the problem.
Your kids are not as worried about the broken toy, loss of a game or the score on their exam. What they are most worried about is being validated. Your kids crave your connection and your validation more than anything. Once they know you’re hearing them, it helps your child decrease anxiety and soften their emotions.
Simple Validating Parenting Tool
When your child begins to get upset, you can sometimes decrease the tantrum or outburst by using just two words – “you want.”
These words might be small, but they have a massive impact. As soon as you use these two words your child instantly feels understood.
“YOU WANT to watch one more show”
“I understand YOU WANTED to stay five minutes longer at the park.”
“I can see YOU WANTED one more cookie.”
“YOU WANT to order your ice cream first.”
Once they feel heard it helps them begin to calm down. Remember, your validation is their goal and once it’s achieved it can help shorten the tantrum or soften the blow.
Validation Does Not Mean Giving In
Actions and feelings are two entirely separate things. It’s important for your kids to learn and understand the difference. As parents, it’s our job to help teach our kids appropriate actions for their feelings.
For example: Your child gets really mad and frustrated at recess during a heated game of foursquare. Your son is certain his opponent cheated and during this confrontation he gets so worked up over his frustration and anger, he hits the other boy.
Feelings of anger and frustration = OKAY
Hitting someone because you’re angry and frustrated = NOT OKAY
Here is a perfect example of how feelings and actions are not the same thing.
Rules, Limits and Boundaries Are Key
When you child understands his/her boundaries it makes it easier for them to control their emotions. It’s here, they begin to learn their feelings are okay, but certain actions are not. Clear boundaries also help them learn that emotional breakouts will not give them their way. Fair and firm boundaries help your child feel more in control of their emotions, feelings and surroundings.
Take for example a child who wants so badly to stay at the park for five more minutes. If you have always left after you gave the five-minute warning, your child learns that this is a set boundary. But, if sometimes they whine or cry and you let them stay an additional five minutes, they learn that there isn’t a set boundary. Therefore, they feel they need to tantrum or make a scene in order to get their way and find the missing boundary. Clear, fair and firm boundaries are one step in helping your child feel validated and understood.
Tools To Help Your Child Manage Feelings
It doesn’t matter what set your child off, what matters is the way they are feeling. Feelings are big, huge things that are often very hard to understand and control. Children need you to help them learn how to manage their feelings. This is sometimes a very unnatural thing for parents. It takes practice learning how to validate and not jump in to fix everything that upsets your children.
One parenting tool that I love is the Wheel of Choice. This is a simple, easy and effective way for you and your kids to work together on managing big feelings. Emotions can take over and in those moments it’s hard to know how to come back down. Once you and your child get their wheel set, it will be handy and ready for your child to use as a tool when moments like this arise.
Grab your copy of Wheel of Choice today. This will give you and your child time to connect. The complete module gives you step by step instructions 0n how to set up the wheel, it offers multiple ideas and strategies, as well as, gives you a blank template to print and use immediately. Hundreds of clients of mine have used this wheel to help calm and validate their child’s feelings.
Start Validating Your Child Today!
To learn more about how to manage your child’s emotions BOOK a FREE 30-minute Discovery Call with Tia