Reflecting on “How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen” Chapter 1- Tools for Handling Emotions

Published by This Indulgent Life on

Chapter 1 of “How To Talk So Little Kids Will Listen”- Tools for Handling Emotions

Don’t have time to read the whole post? Skip to the end for a handy dandy infographic!

Children can only behave when they are not struggling with their emotions | tools for handling emotions | How To Talk So Little Kids Will Listen Book review | This Indulgent Life

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Why Should Parents Care About The Emotions?

As they say in the book, “We can’t behave right when we don’t feel right.” This goes for adults and kids alike and yet we expect kids to behave all the time and we just end up seeing their behavior as wilfulness or manipulation when the truth is usually they’re just struggling with feelings of anger, disappointment, confusion, and bad days just like we do. So when we as parents look deeper at the emotions behind the behavior we tend to see them as little people who need help dealing with big feelings and that then puts us in a better position of helping our children without becoming overwhelmed and wanting to scream ourselves. Chapter one gives us the tools to help children handle emotions.

My Background on Handling Emotions

Yeah, I struggle with this one. I mean I was basically raised to suppress emotions. Any emotion that wasn’t happy was considered manipulation or weakness most times and so I even struggle with naming feelings never-mind accepting them. Luckily this chapter really delves into how to do this and the importance of it.

The 5 Tools for Handling Emotions PLUS some extra tips!

That can be used with anyone, not just little kids!


Tool 1: Acknowledge Feelings with Words

Tool 2: Acknowledge Feelings with Writing

Tool 3: Acknowledge Feelings with Art

Tool 4: Give in Fantasy What You Cannot Give in Reality

Tool 5: acknowledge Feelings with (Almost) Silent Attention

Tips and Tricks to remember when helping your child through their emotions:

  • “Sit on those “buts”– Basically, a ‘but’ after you acknowledge their feelings disregards that emotion and has the opposite effect you’re wanting. Instead use “The problem is….” or “Even though you know…
  • Match their emotions. Being too calm when they feel the a flood of emotions makes you seem disingenuous. So just like when a friend gets all upset with you when you’re venting, you also need to match your child’s level of emotions.
  • Don’t ask questions of a distressed child. Think back to how your feel when you’re upset, do you want to play 20 questions? Neither does your child. In fact, they’re probably struggling to even think clearly never mind put it into words. Just state fact and let it be, there doesn’t need to be a justification, though I know it’s hard.


How I’m Using the Tools For Handling Emotions with my son.

There isn’t just one tool that is going to fit every situation or every child, so having these options to rely on is invaluable. And the stories that accompany each tool not only entertain, but make the tools more relatable as well. As my son isn’t verbal yet I’m focusing more on tool 1- Acknowledging feelings with words and tool 4- Give in fantasy that which you cannot in reality.

I’m also really trying to be cogniscent of my “buts”. Even before I read the book I felt like I was using “but” way too often, however I wasn’t sure what else to say and for some reason I felt the need to justify whatever I was doing that made him upset. “Wow, you’re so angry I took that pole from you, BUT you were scaring the dogs.” “You’re  disappointed that we have to go home, BUT it’s getting late.” I realized it was making light of his emotions and basically saying my feelings were more important. So instead I’m trying to say “Wow, you’re so angry that I had to take that pole from you, the problem is the dogs get scared when you play with it, so lets play with this instead.” or “Even though you know dinner is almost ready and daddy is waiting on us, you’re disappointed that we have to leave the playground.” It’s definitely a work in progress though and will take time to be second nature.

I also really struggle with not asking questions when he’s upset. I mean at this point he is VERY non-verbal so I have no idea what he’s suddenly upset about and I go into interrogation mode to try to figure it out. Of course he can’t answer me, so I’m not really sure what I’m hoping to accomplish either way. I guess it just makes me feel like I’m trying, but it’s a habit I need to break now.

mom listens to her daughter's feelings | tools for handling emotions | How To Talk So Little Kids Will Listen Book review | This Indulgent Life

Photo by Josh Willink from Pexels

What these Tools for Handling Feelings Looks Like in the Classroom.

      As an art teacher you’d think I’d be drawn (no pun intended) to tool 3- acknowledge feelings with art, but it doesn’t come so naturally to me or the kids I work with. Maybe it’s the age or the amount of students I work with, I’m not sure. I am still trying to be aware of the “buts” and sometimes I even throw in a little fantasy. But my most used tool is definitely Tool 1- Acknowledge Emotions with Words.

     I definitely have seen some improvements when it comes to dealing with student to student conflict. I’m repeating what I “hear” from one student and then acknowledging how he feels. I then ask if I got it right because I’m still learning and I don’t want to assume. I think they appreciate it. It seems to calm them down a bit more and they feel more heard. I then listen to the other side of the story and do the same. I also use a good dosage of Tool 5- Acknowledge Emotions with (Almost) Silent Attention. I will use it until they give me the blank stare of confusion. It’s fascinating to see how confused they get when I don’t immediately try to solve their problems. Kids today are rarely expected to try to solve problems on their own anymore, especially in the school setting. Usually by this time the students are more willing to talk to each other and work things out on their own, but if they can’t I of course give my words of wisdom.

handling emotions while teaching | tools for handling emotions | How To Talk So Little Kids Will Listen Book review | This Indulgent Life

Photo by Andrii Nikolaienko from Pexels

My Next Steps To Be Better At Handling Emotions

  •      I will continue to practice using “The problem is…” and “Even though you know” instead of “but”. Or better yet just not trying to justify my feelings at all.
  •      I want to try to affirm my student’s emotions with Art more. I’m not exactly sure how to do that with 8-12 year olds, but I like the idea.
  •      I need to stop asking questions when all they really need is me to listen and acknowledge their feelings. I think as a teacher it’s even more difficult because we’re basically trained to get to the bottom of a situation and deal with it accordingly. I just don’t feel like we’re doing our kids any justice by doing it this way.
  •       I want to get better at giving in fantasy what I can’t in reality. I’m so bad at the imaginative play and all so this one is especially hard, but I know it will be a useful tool for the future so I want to practice it now.


how to get little kids to listen infographic | Common feeling words for kids | tools for handling emotions | How To Talk So Little Kids Will Listen Book review | This Indulgent Life

How have you been doing with dealing with your child’s emotions? Do you have any other tips or tricks to share? If so or if you have a question instead, please leave them in the comments!

To see all the chapters from “How To Talk So Little Kids Will Listen” click here.

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Suzie · June 7, 2018 at 10:04 pm

Great tips!

Kimberly · June 8, 2018 at 12:03 am

Pinned this for later! Thank you for these thoughtful tips ❤

Kermilia · June 8, 2018 at 5:03 pm

I LOVE this post! I was also raised to believe that expressing myself was a negative thing, and unfortunately, I brought that with me into my adult life. Definitely going to be pinning this for future reference.

    This Indulgent Life · June 9, 2018 at 2:03 pm

    It’s a problem so many of us have, but luckily we have access to research and information our parents didn’t so we can “know better, do better”. Let me know how it goes in the future!

Diane · June 8, 2018 at 8:02 pm

What great suggestions! Totally going to start using the phrase “the problem is…” with my 3 yr old! Thanks!

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[…] continue. It’s still good to use this tool in combination with other tools, especially the tools for handling emotions in chapter 1 and to redirect them elsewhere when […]

HTTSLKWL Ch. 5 Tools For Kids Who Are Differently Wired · February 28, 2019 at 11:08 am

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