BIG E M O T I O N S
My son has big emotions. BIG E M O T I O N S. And he’s not afraid to unleash them. This is, of course, a wonderful thing. He’s hilarious – he can tell jokes, blow raspberries on my husband’s belly, jump on the bed, or even play with a toy, and generate a deep, echoing belly laugh that I will treasure until my dying day. He will come up to me and give me a big “smooch” by placing his hands on the sides of my face, fish-lipping, and giving me a big smack square on my mouth.
BIG emotions also means he’s a crier. When he gets frustrated, he will whine and cry, giving up quickly. If he’s overly tired and you ask him to brush his teeth, he will cry. He will MELTDOWN into a torrential downpour of the saddest stream of tears you ever did see at daycare drop off. When he stubs his toe, he wails. If you hand him the banana he asked for, that is the ultimate insult.
Why Crying Is Good!
In today’s society, it is generally not accepted that men can be criers and still be manly. We hear it all the time; “Don’t be such a baby,” “Suck it up,” “Crybaby,” or even worse. So, how can I protect my sweet, emotional baby in this cruel world? I don’t want him growing up thinking crying isn’t ok. Not only is it OK, it’s healthy! It is a natural human emotion. Telling boys (or girls) not to cry is only going to lead to him suppressing his feelings, eventually boiling over one day.
I want my son to express his emotions freely, respectfully, and appropriately. To grow to be an adult that knows what they are feeling, and why, so he can make healthy choices for himself. I dream he will be an emotionally mature individual that is capable of being someone’s equal, partner in life, and rock. He should stand up for himself when he knows he should. I want him to be an active listener. The trick is – how do I handle parenting these BIG E M O T I O N S during the toddler phase, already fraught with over the top displays of independence and attitude?
Top Tips for Parenting BIG E M O T I O N S
- Shower your child with love. Hug, kiss, laugh, read together, talk, and cuddle with your child often.
- Tell your kid you’re there. You recognize their emotions, and you understand they feel the way they do. Seeing your kid where they are at and validating their emotions helps them feel secure. “I see you’re very upset you can’t eat cookies for dinner right now. It’s ok to feel upset.”
- Talk to your kid about your emotions. “Mommy is very happy right now because you gave me a kiss!” or “Mommy is very frustrated right now because she always feels busy!” is a great way to lay the groundwork for empathy.
- Count to 10 (mostly for you!). I know that when my son is unloading a heap of big emotions at the end of a long workday, right in the middle of me cooking dinner, as my daughter is screaming for more food….well, I tend to lose my stack. It’s not hard to do when parenting toddlers. So count to TEN. Count out loud. Inhale and exhale after every number. Giving yourself and your kid some space-time to cool down and collect thoughts is invaluable.
- Talk through tough situations – once everyone has a level head. If your kid is in the middle of a stage 5 meltdown, give them space. Get them to a place where they and others are physically safe. Then, once they’ve calmed down, discuss what happened and why they felt that way. You might also role-play different ways to respond if that situation arises again in the future.
- Give your kid time to repair damage – this could be giving a hug to someone they hurt, apologizing for a bad word, etc. And, likewise, you should make repairs with your kid. “I’m sorry for the way I yelled earlier, that’s not a good way for mommy to talk to you. I will do better next time.”
- Set a routine. Routines provide a template for the day that helps kids feel secure. Routines can be flexible but should still be predictable.
The Next Generation
Raising a generation of emotionally connected and well-adjusted kids is HARD. Like, sometimes a Herculean task that feels impossible. However, as I look around the world today; seemingly full of hatred, bigotry, divisiveness, and plain lack of empathy – it is more important work than ever before. Every single, last gray hair I’ve earned in the process will be worth it. I will be so proud of the empathetic man my son will become.