Helping Children Manage Big Feelings

Natural Consequences – Part 3


When we see our little one inflict harm on someone else or create a mess of epic proportions, it can be infuriating. I find it similar to road rage — when I am in the moment, it’s powerful, overwhelming, and can totally impair my thinking. However, meeting their extreme behavior with an extreme reaction doesn’t make me feel good either. It is also critical to remember that you are actively modeling ‘what to do when you are upset’ in this moment for your child. You need to lead by example.So, when you watch your son hit your daughter, throw something with the intention of hitting someone, or see your child empty dirt from an indoor plant onto the floor, what should you do?

  1. First and foremost, make sure that behavior stops immediately. Verbally, be clear and direct — stop hitting your sister — with urgency in your voice. If your child is hitting, kicking, or biting another person, do whatever it takes to ensure that everyone is safe. Physically stop your child if verbally telling them is not enough.
  2. Stay as calm as possible and let them know you are not pleased with their behavior. Say, What you just did was hurtful and makes me very angry/frustrated/sad. Then take a deep breath yourself. You will not do your best thinking in a frenzied state. This is where we run the highest risk of saying things that are not only unhelpful, but potentially harmful. One phrase I frequently resort to is, Mommy is really upset right now but instead of using my hands, I’m using my words and taking a deep breath first.
  3. Consider the frequency. Does he hit his brother often? Is this the first time? Have daycare/babysitter/teachers been telling me this is an ongoing problem? If it doesn’t happen frequently, we have to remember our children are small and learning. We won’t “allow” the behavior, but we also don’t need to act as if they just stabbed someone. **If this is pattern behavior, I would take a different approach. If a child is resorting to being physical with others often, s/he needs to be explicitly taught coping skills at a time when s/he is calm (please let me know if you would like more information on this – happy to dive deeper!)
  4. In order to keep everyone safe, consider removing your child from the environment. In this type of situation, this would be the natural consequence just as cleaning up a mess would be (see picture above!). Let’s go over here and make sure your body is safe enough to be around your friends. I don’t use the words “time out.” I would rather teach Keener that in order for him to be around his friends, his body needs to be safe. If he can’t be safe, he can’t be around this friends.
  5. Explain to your child why what they did was not safe and the impact of their behavior: Hitting your sister is not safe. It hurts her and makes her cry. She will not want to play with you if you use unsafe hands with her.
  6. Appeal to their empathy: Do you like when your friends hit you?
  7. Give them options for what they can do with the offending body part. Hands are for hugging, high 5s, building, and coloring. There are lots of things we can do with our hands.
  8. Have them make sure the child they hurt is ok. Have them ask, Are you ok? and apologize for hurting them, I’m sorry I hurt you.
  9. Give them options for how they could try handling the situation in an appropriate way: When you were angry at Sam, you could have said, ‘Can I please have a turn with the train?’ or you could say, ‘I’m feeling angry, I need some space,’ and walk away to find another toy. Which of those are you going to try right now?
  10. *If the child is calm and capable of hearing you, say, Any time you are feeling angry, you can use your words and ask for a turn, walk away and get some space, or ask mama for help solving a problem. If your child is not in a clear headspace, wait to have this conversation until later and some time has passed.

I would encourage you to think about what language might work for you before you are faced with your child throwing a toy so that you can set yourself up to succeed the next moment you are tested. And remember — we want to teach our children transferable skills. By identifying how your child felt leading up to the incident, you can teach your child strategies to deal with many different situations that might elicit those same feelings in the future. We can’t shield our children from feeling angry, sad, or frustrated, but we can teach them how to manage those big emotions in an appropriate way.

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Establish a Consistent Wake Time for Predictable Sleep

Schedules/Routines Sleep Tip 1IMG_5201

My friend went to see a sleep therapist since she was having trouble sleeping. She was waking up in the middle of the night and not because her kids were awake. While the therapist gave her many tips and research based suggestions, one recommendation stood out to me. The therapist told her she had to go to bed at the same time every night (10:00) and wake up at the same time every morning (6:00). This would allow her body to reset from old, bad habits and help her develop a new cycle of sleeping 8 hours a night.

This same principle applies to children, as well. Keeping our kids on a set schedule for naps and bedtime allows them to fall into a predictable schedule. For the first nine months I was a total stickler for waking my kids up at the same time every morning. I woke them up more often than I didn’t. While it always feels criminal to “wake a sleeping baby,” I knew that having a consistent start time each day was the only way for the rest of the day to take shape.

Take away? Choose a start time and stay with it. Keep in mind, this will impact bedtime and nap times, as well. However, the start time is what sets the next 24 hours in motion.

What We’re Loving

February 15, 2019



Now that Gracie is walking, we have reentered the world of dresses. That being said, she gets Play-Doh, marker, and yogurt all over her on a daily basis; I can’t justify spending too much on her day to day clothes. I took a chance on these dresses from Amazon ($12.90), one in pink and one in gray, and I love them. I bought 18 months, she is 15 months, and they fit well. But with free returns, it’s easy to try different sizes and send back what doesn’t fit.

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Last Minute Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas!

For the emerging verbal skills/limited attention span 1 year old

Grace loves everything about this book. At 15 months, she is just starting to show an interest in books beyond eating them or just flipping the pages. This book only has 2-5 words per page which is perfect for her developing, yet limited, attention span. Inside the front and back covers are many hearts and the caterpillar is ‘hiding’ among them – it thrills her to find the caterpillar! The book is on the smaller side which makes it easy to bring along in the car and enjoy during outings.

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What We’re Loving

February 8, 2019



Grace (almost 15 months) has been really into stickers this week. I found these round Valentine’s stickers on Amazon. They are not the highest quality in that they say “Made in China” on each one, however, for $.01 each, they provide incredible fine motor practice and will definitely make cute Valentines. It has been fascinating to watch her fine motor skills develop. It wasn’t long ago that she was only eating stickers — now she is exploring the sticky side and figuring out how to get each one to stay on the paper. This has been a good reminder to circle back to activities that may have been too challenging, even a few weeks before.

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Natural Consequences – Part 1

IMG_2834.jpgAs parents, when our children aren’t doing what we want them to, a common tactic is to take something away that is in our control — an ipad, a favorite tv show, or dessert. We are also quick to provide incentives to make our kids listen – If you get off the slide right now and get in the car, we will have a special snack. Why do we do it? We want our kids to listen to us. We are reaching for anything we can to bribe, encourage, or convince our kids to do what we want them to do.

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What We’re Loving

February 1, 2019

I hope the weather is warmer where you live — it’s freezing here in VA! I grew up here and I don’t remember it ever being this cold. While I typically stand by the “there is no inappropriate weather, only inappropriate clothing,” it has been just about impossible to get the kids outside. Preschool has been cancelled or delayed and we are all itching to get some fresh air!

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