How to Help Preschoolers Handle Their Feelings

How to help preschoolers handle their feelings

So let’s talk preschoolers.

They’re delightful one minute, demonic the next. One moment their mantra is “By Myself”; the next they are the helpless baby again. One of the most important things we have to do for our two-, three-, and four-year-olds is help them develop emotional self-control. They have to learn to handle disappointment, frustration, and delayed gratification—all of the feelings—without flipping out (ahem, screaming, kicking, hitting, falling on the floor in a writhing heap).

Emotional self-control is not something kids achieve after a one-time punishment or conversation, and kids don’t just automatically “grow into it” without guidance—it’s one of those things they only develop with consistent, patient help from us. Which means that we, the parent, must also learn a whole new level of patience and emotional self-control, ha! 

How to Handle Temper Tantrums

So if you’ve got a three-year-old in the throes of throwing him- or herself on the floor screaming every time they don’t get their way…keep working on it. Be firm and consistent every time they shout, or flop on the floor, or hit, or stomp their foot—if they realize that tantrums NEVER achieve what they want, over time they’ll give up the tactic. But don’t just discourage tantrums; encourage patience and self-control (encourage them with praise, reward, etc.). Try equipping your child with simple strategies to help them get control of wild feelings (count to ten and breathe; go sit in the other room for a minute and calm down; squeeze your hands together).

How to help preschoolers handle their feelings

But we can’t just deal with them in the crisis moment—if we want to see real growth, we have to take it deeper. In calm moments, talk to them about patience, sharing, being calm, about explaining their feelings in words rather than acting them out, about good and bad ways to deal with big feelings. Teach them, in simple terms, about the deeper, heart-level concepts of patience, not always getting your way, being unselfish and loving, and not being mean to others. Use simple scriptures to reinforce these principles. Preschoolers are smart, and they really do understand when we talk to them about these things—we just have to catch them in the right moment. They often “get it” in their heads, but then we have to help their feelings and self-control mature and catch up. (And watch “Daniel Tiger” together—seriously, that show and its little songs help!)

If we hang in there, our preschool days will be more delightful than demonic, and one day, this crazy emotional roller coaster ride will flatten out…at least until the preteen years…but that’s another post another day.

I recently spoke about helping kids with whining on Facebook Live—you can watch the recording here!

Where is God when life gets hard…and…what to do when kids whine!

Nai-post ni Elizabeth Laing Thompson, Writer at LizzyLife noong Miyerkules, Marso 22, 2017

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A Fun Way to Teach Gratitude to Kids of All Ages

teaching kids to be grateful via @lizzylit

Image courtesy of Pixabay

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we’re all looking for ways to have a thankful spirit, and to encourage our children to be grateful. Last week I posted a super silly way to teach kids about gratitude. 

Here’s another devotional idea to encourage gratitude—for kids and grown-ups:

We did this activity last year with a small group at church, and credit for the idea goes to Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome. (We had a room full of adults and kids, including my very loud toddler, who had a lot to say all throughout the devotional!) We started by reading some scriptures about gratitude, then Kevin handed out notecards and pens. He asked us to write down things we were grateful for in different categories:

  • an activity we enjoy
  • an experience we’ve had
  • something we own
  • something in nature
  • a person outside our family circle

Then we took turns sharing what we’d written. This devotional was so fun because it made us stop to appreciate the simple things, experiences, and people in our daily life that we are grateful for. Sometimes when we think about gratitude we make it big and virtuous and intangible—”I’m thankful for relationships,” “I’m thankful for freedom,” “I’m thankful for grace”—and while those things are wonderful, they feel kind of . . . theoretical. It also helps our hearts to think, “You know, I’m grateful for my new shoes. And I’m grateful that I get to take piano lessons. And I love jumping in piles of raked leaves.”

I especially loved the way this devotional got adults and kids involved, sharing our thoughts together! The kids had a lot to say, and we all laughed and smiled a lot. Everyone left thankful and happy, feeling more connected to God and to each other.

Want more parenting tips and devotion ideas? Sign up for my monthly parenting newsletter, and you’ll receive a free download with seven two-minute devotions to do around the breakfast table with kids!

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