Teaching Kids How To Regulate Their Emotions Is Important

Disclosure: I received a copy of the "The Emotionally Healthy Child" by Maureen Healy for free, but all thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links are also used in this post. You can read my full disclosure here.

I personally feel our society would really benefit from having required child psychology classes in high school and maybe a refresher course before having kids, like how they have birth classes, they should have parenting classes. However, as adults, most of us know how to read, and so we can and should educate ourselves, ideally before having children, and continue to learn along the way. One book I highly recommend reading is "The Emotionally Healthy Child" by Maureen Healy.

My Own Struggle With Emotions

I grew up in a house with a parent who did not know healthy ways to express their anger. I was screamed at, yelled at, and even physically assaulted (spanking).

Because of this, I grew up without knowing how to express my anger in a healthy way and actually feared to feel the emotion because of how I have seen it play out. When I felt mad, I often chose the silent treatment, or would keep things bottled up until I was shaken so much, it all came out and not very pretty. I never yelled as I did not want to be like my parent, but I often resorted to slamming doors, cabinets, etc. Basically, I let other things do the yelling for me.

My husband threw me for a loop when he said back when we were dating: "I wish you would have just told me." You see, my upbringing made me afraid to say when I was upset because I wasn't allowed to be upset, or if I was upset and expressed it, I was treated wrongly so. Plus when my parent was mad, it was very scary and so I feared the emotion altogether and did my best to hide my anger.

With my partner's help, I got better at communicating when I felt upset before things would spiral out of control. It helped that he was always so calm. He had a gentler upbringing than I did, so I definitely think that's why he handles his anger so much better.

Flash forward a few years. 

I started seeing a therapist shortly after our daughter was born because I was experiencing anger inside of me, probably a combination of being tired and first a time mom with no idea what to do, and I was afraid of unleashing it on her, which lead to me keeping things bottled up again. I was diagnosed with anxiety, which I likely had since I was a kid due to my upbringing.

My therapist helped me learn ways to calm my anxiety, which in turn, calmed my anger. I slipped up every now and then and raised my voice, and I would apologize to my daughter, often in tears.

It was a hard first few months as I had to learn how to safely express my feelings and also had to realize that as humans, we all make mistakes, and there is no way I will ever be 100% on top of my emotions, but I can at least aim for 99%.

The cool thing I realized while writing this is that I haven't yelled at my daughter in months! Of course, I shout her name, to try to get her to come to me, but I haven't yelled at her out of anger.

I actually hardly ever feel angry with her because I have also educated myself in child psychology (which is why I wish classes where required before becoming parents because I feel so many adults go into parenting without the proper knowledge on how a child's mind works). Sure there are moments she frustrates me, like when she throws her food on the floor, but I instantly remind myself "she's just a child, she doesn't know better, she's only acting on impulses" and boom! Suddenly I'm calm again and hey we have a dog, so I don't really have to clean anything!

Being mindful is so important when it comes to emotions as if you can feel them happening, you can prevent them from escalating. Healy dedicates a whole chapter to mindfulness (Chapter 5: Insight) in her book, "The Emotionally Healthy Child." She provides excellent tips and activities to help develop and practice mindfulness.

"The Emotionally Healthy Child" Book Review

Reading "The Emotionally Healthy Child," by Maureen Healy brought me back to my childhood, to a time where feelings weren't encouraged as much as they are today. She even mentions in her introductory chapter that the tools in her book were ones she wished she had access to as a child, and I feel very much the same way. 

So many of us were raised in settings where we weren't allowed to have emotions, which is why I believe we have so many aggressive and angry adults in the world today, especially men. We grew up without the tools to manage those emotions, and that's how you end up with adult tantrums (I've seen my share working retail. The elderly women are the worst!).

We aren't born knowing how to regulate our emotions. It's something we have to learn. Healy provides many great activities/tools in her book to help you and your child recognize their emotions and find safer and more productive ways to release those feelings.

Her final chapter is actually a "toolbox" with tips on how to handle almost every emotion from anger to sadness.

Though this book is geared towards parents and kids, I feel all adults could benefit from it. Many of these techniques were ones that my therapist recommended to me for helping with my anxiety, such as deep breathing (called bubble breathing in the book) or making a checklist of smarter choices.

You can find her book on Amazon

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  1. So critical that we teach our kids to regulate emotions. I fear so much of this is being lost with how much kids are on screens and not interacting with adults and learning to read, interpret, and regulate their feelings and emotions.

  2. I grew up not having a model for regulating my emotions either. I struggle with anxiety, so sometimes I don't handle frustration well, but it's something I have worked on for years. I will have to read this book! I worry about teaching my daughters how to handle their own emotions.

  3. I am so sorry to hear that. Fortunately my parents are really calm people and always prefer talking instead of arguing. I really hope I will be able to teach my kids the same principals.

  4. I can relate to this post so much. This sounds like a wonderful book.

  5. Reading about your childhood reminded me of some of my own. My emotions were never allowed to show. If they did there was often hell to pay. So I kept everything in and the object of survival was to stay as quiet as possible. Child Psychology is something I have a huge interest in and am considering getting my Masters degree in.

  6. This is a really beautiful post. Thank you! Teaching kids emotional intelligence (and ourselves) is so important! I am going to buy that book for some family members. It will be so helpful! Thank you.

  7. This is an important aspect of raising children. I allowed my kids to release their emotions (especially when it comes to anger and anxiety). I have provided them the listening ear and the guidance to understand and accept the situation. Thankfully, things never got out of hand. It was the other way around when I was a kid though. My parents wanted me to excel academically and I was always in an argument with my teacher protesting my scores. I behaved that way in school because I did not want to disappoint my parents.

  8. A lot of adults lack emotional intelligence stemming from it being damped down as children, especially for boys. Parents have to let kids express themselves emotionally so that we don't get psychopaths in society.

  9. I can somehow relate to your story. Growing up with a parent that is always angry, moody and grumpy has never been easy for me. Not wanting to be same, I tried my best to hide everything inside but that made me very miserable.
    Hopefully one day when I have kids of my own, I will be able to teach them the right way to express their emotions.

  10. I enjoyed reading the post. The goal of any parent is to do better with our kids and hopefully don't repeat mistakes or negative parts of our we were raised.

  11. As a hispanic women, spanking was something I grew up on. Thankfully I don't do the same with my boys.

  12. Sounds like a book that would be helpful for many folks. I've always disliked the idea of learning how to look after your kids, as parenthood, to me, is a natural learning curve. BUT many of us are the products of our upbringing, and I can completely appreciate that you must have had your own learning curve with expressing emotions.

  13. What great insight you have to share on your upbringing and how you have benefited from reading this book. Thank you for sharing your honesty and the value of expressing emotions.

  14. This is definitely something that more parents should take seriously. IF we don't learn self-control as children..how are we to behave as adults.

  15. I can relate in my own childhood and I vowed to be completely different. It was hard at times and I did keep things bottled up. Yes so agree it would be so much better if parents were offered classes while pregnant or in the hospital before taking their babies home.

  16. "So many of us were raised in settings where we weren't allowed to have emotion" <-- I agree with this!! I feel like communication was always one sided during these times. I am trying to have my students (I work with 3 years) try to verbal tell me how they are feeling and tell me what is wrong.

  17. I think this book would be a good one to read. It’s wonderful that our generation has more outlets for education on emotions and mental health than our parents.


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