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Feelings First, Behaviour Second!

Ever wonder why your child behaves in a certain way?
Sometimes they are like an angel, other times you feel like you do not know them at all.

It’s amazing how a child’s behaviour can change in a split second and as much as you would love to parent them positively and calmly, your patience ran out and both of you started screaming at each other.

There are many factors that cause a child behaves in a certain way. For instance,
– environment
– relationship
– an event
But the most important factor is FEELINGS.

The way we behave is affected by feelings. For instance, when you are frustrated or angry, you act it out by saying mean things or behave impulsively. This happens to our children as well. Especially when they do not know how to express in words, they will act it out by behaving in a different manner.

Children generally watch and learn about feelings by watching others. Feelings can be very complicated to teach because you can’t see, touch or listen to it. They do not understand why they can’t do certain things at a certain time or eat a certain thing at a certain time.

For example:
– why they can’t have candy before mealtime
– why we need to leave the playground early due to a call back for work
– why they buy the toy they like

Therefore we need to teach our children to identify and recognise feelings so that they understand how and why they feel in a certain way: feeling happy, feeling sad, feeling angry. With this knowledge, we can further guide and support them on how to cope and manage those feelings. In short, guide them on putting feelings into words and manage it.

Label each feeling
Children are not born with the knowledge of labels of feelings. They do not know that smiling means happy or crying means sad in its simplest form. For very young children, teach and label each basic feeling such as happy, mad, sad and scared. As for older children, once they understand the basic feelings, we can further teach and explain to them more complex feeling such as frustrated, disappointed, and nervous.

Real-life examples to talk about feelings
Whenever there is a chance, model and share how you feel. Ask your child how he/she feels. For young children, use a feeling chart to explain what is happy/sad/angry/etc. When you are watching the TV or reading a book, use the character examples to explain about feelings.

Dealing with feelings
After understanding how to identify feelings and labelling it, we need to teach our children how to manage their feelings positively and effectively. Being angry doesn’t mean they can hit or cause hurt to anyone. Encourage them to go for a self-timeout if they are feeling really upset or find someone to talk to. Praise and encourage them if they talk to you about their feelings. Let them know that feelings are normal and there’s nothing alien about it.

Listen and Support
We need to embrace the power of feelings as they intimately affect our behaviours. Always be open to listen and not judge when they are telling you about their feelings. Guide and support them on how to handle feelings in a positive and healthier way. A reward system can be implemented to reinforce healthy habits.

Children who are able to identify, express and manage a wide range of feelings positively will experience benefits to their wellbeing, mental health and have positive behaviour. Now do you see the link between feelings and behaviour?

Check out our fun activities for learning emotions for young children at Making faces…learning emotions…

If you have more tips to share or questions, do comment below! We would love to hear from you.

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