How to Teach Young Children about Emotions

Emotions are an integral part of the human experience, and helping young children understand their emotions is an important part of parenting!  By equipping them with emotional intelligence early on, we empower them to navigate life's ups and downs more effectively. 

Parenting as a Peacemaker means we look first to Jesus. As both fully God and fully human, He experienced the full range of human emotion. From joy and delight to frustration and anger, from compassion and empathy to grief and anxiety, Jesus reveals to us that emotions are natural, neutral, and necessary

Why Teach Children About Emotions?
Emotional Regulation: Teaching children to recognize and understand their emotions helps them learn how to manage and regulate them. This skill is essential for maintaining healthy relationships, making thoughtful decisions, and coping with stress.

Improved Communication: When children can express their feelings effectively, it enhances communication with peers and adults. They can better articulate their needs and concerns, reducing frustration and misunderstandings. This also helps mitigate emotional outbursts that become physical. 

Empathy: Understanding their emotions also fosters empathy, as children become more attuned to the feelings of others. Empathetic children are more likely to build strong, positive relationships and contribute positively to their communities. Remember, this is something that grows and matures over many years, and is largely dependent on brain development!

Conflict Resolution: Emotional awareness equips children with the tools to resolve conflicts peacefully. They can identify the emotions driving a disagreement and work towards finding solutions that address everyone's needs and concerns.

Practical Activities to Teach Children About Emotions
The Emotion Thermometer: Use a thermometer to help children gauge the intensity of their emotions. This visual aid makes discussing emotions easier and more concrete. Encourage them to point to the temperature that matches how they feel, from icy-cold (calm) to blazing-hot (angry).

Emotion Charades: Play emotion charades by acting out various emotions without using words. This fun game helps children recognize and express emotions through body language and facial expressions.

Feelings Faces Art: Create a "Feeling Faces" art project. Provide magazines or printouts of different facial expressions and ask children to make a collage of various emotions. This activity encourages discussion about emotions while being creative.

Feelings Flashcards: Craft a set of emotion flashcards with pictures depicting different emotions. Show these cards to children, ask them to identify the emotion, and share a time when they felt that way. This helps them connect emotions to their own experiences.

Books + Stores Read books with emotional themes together. After each story, discuss how the characters felt and why. Encourage children to relate the emotions in the book to their own experiences and feelings.

Teaching children about emotions is a sacred journey of nurturing their hearts and souls. It's an opportunity to help them develop not just emotional intelligence but also a deeper understanding of themselves and their place in the world. Just as Jesus embraced and understood the emotions of those He touched,  we can guide our children toward emotional maturity with a gentle, Jesus-centered spirit. By doing so, we provide them with a strong foundation for emotional well-being and for living out the teachings of Christ in their daily lives.

In nurturing a child's emotional intelligence, we equip them to better serve others, build lasting relationships, and walk in the light of God's love.

Nurturing Preschoolers: A Guide for Peacemaker Parents

There was a time when the preschool years were affectionately known as the "Wonder Years". And while you might read that and think "Of course they were - I'm always wondering what the right thing to do is with my preschooler," the term Wonder Years was actually coined as a nod to the inherent wonder and curiosity of 3, 4, 5, and 6-year-olds. 

The preschool years are typically defined as ages 3.5-5.5. It's during this phase that children start developing a sense of self, and though they're still very dependent on parents and caregivers for the meeting of physical and emotional needs, they're also extremely interested in learning about their own independence. They learn through experience, and exploring their world, testing limits and boundaries, and discovering new skills are full of wonder and excitement. 

As you embark on this beautiful journey of raising preschoolers, here are a few things your preschooler needs to thrive:

Unconditional Love and Protection
  • Parenting as a Peacemaker means we start by understanding that receiving and accepting God's unconditional love for you so that you can extend that kind of resplendent love to your preschooler. Let them know they are loved and cherished, and nothing they do will change that.
  • Encourage open communication and assure them that they can always talk to you about anything.
  Respect for Individuality
  • Recognize that each child is unique and created in God's image. Embrace and celebrate their individuality.
  • Encourage their interests and passions, even if they differ from your own. One very practical way to do this is to show genuine interest in what they delight in, get curious about it, and join them in that interest.
 Peacemaker Discipline (Discipline as Discipleship)
  • Shift from punishment-based discipline to a peacemaking approach rooted in Jesus-centered discipleship.
  • Discipline with love, empowering your preschooler for the future by teaching and building skills, reinforcing family values, and scaffolding their learning.

 Structured Routine with Flexibility
  • Establish a daily routine that provides stability and security for your preschooler.
  • Allow room for flexibility to accommodate their changing needs and interests, as well as to meet the needs of each family member.
Connection + Quality Time
  • Prioritize spending quality time with your child. Engage in activities that promote bonding and connection. 
  • Try to engage in 10 minutes of child-led play or activity every day.       
Age-appropriate Independence
  • Foster independence by giving your child age-appropriate responsibilities and choices.
  • Teach them to make decisions by giving choices within wide boundaries.
Emotional Regulation
  • Help your preschooler start learning to  identify and express their emotions in healthy ways.
  • Remember that co-regulation is the foundation for self-regulation. Your child's nervous system will learn self-regulation by experiencing it with you.
 Free time for Curiosity and Learning
  • Support their natural curiosity through exploration and play.
  • Build unscheduled and unstructured free time into your day so they have time to pursue their own curiosity.

You have a unique opportunity to raise thriving preschoolers who not only grow in wisdom and grace but also understand the depth of God's love for them as His image bearers. Parenting through the "wonder years" can feel overwhelming at times. Don't forget to sit back and watch your child flourish as they journey through the precious years of preschool, being exactly who God made them to be.

Want to learn more about Peacemaker Parenting Preschoolers? Our upcoming LIVE workshop will fill your parenting toolbox with trust-based, peacemaking parenting tools, especially for the preschool years. 

How to get your preschooler to listen without yelling

No one really wants to have to yell at their kids to get their attention, right? The thing is, children's brains transition much more slowly than adult brains do, which means even if they hear you talking, you don't necessarily have their attention. Here are four easy ways to get their attention without yelling, while also building connection and strengthening your bond with your child.

1. Be silly
Getting down on their level and being silly and playful invites them from their world of fun and imagination and into your world of fun.

  • "I can't remember, are your eyes purple? Do you have purple eyes? Can I see them?"
  • "Are my eyes opened or closed?" (Then keep one eye open and one eye closed like you're winking at them.)
  •  "My tongue! It's stuck out! I can't get it back in! I need some one to poke my tummy so my tongue will pop back in my mouth!"
2. Be curious
When you take time to notice what they're engaged in or mention something you admire or love about what they're doing, it gently shifts their focus to you.

  • "I see you're coloring a rainbow. It looks like you used all of the colors and made it really big and bright. What is your favorite thing about this picture?"
  • "It looks like you're having fun playing with your Paw Patrol toys. What kind of adventure are they on?"
3. Gently touch their shoulder, cheek, or chin
Getting down at eye level or lower disarms children and helps them instinctively know that you are not there for a power struggle or to control them. Gently touch their shoulder, cheek, leg, or chin to get their attention while asking a question about the activity they're engaged in. "You're paying really close attention to this LEGO project. What are you building?

4. Sing or whisper
If you need their attention right away, and can't get close to them, try singing their name or even whispering if you're close enough that they'll hear it. This is a low-pressure way to get their attention and help draw them to you.

5. Instead of counting to three, have them count
Many parents use the 1...2...3... method to get their children to listen or obey. Instead of counting to get your child's attention, help them access the logical and problem-solving parts of their brain by inviting them to count.

  • "How many fingers am I holding up?"  (If they answer and then look away quickly, do it again, or quickly change how many fingers you're holding up so they pay closer attention.)
Children can easily get lost in their own imaginative world and focused on their own agenda - and that's a good thing, it's one of the things we love about them! As a Peacemaker Parent, you can gain their attention without getting harsh or yelling, and draw them back into a trusting, safe, and peaceful "real world." 

Want to learn more about Peacemaker Parenting Preschoolers? Our upcoming LIVE workshop will fill your parenting toolbox with trust-based, peacemaking parenting tools, especially for the preschool years. 


Peacemaker Parenting Tool: Find the Yes

In the fast-paced world of parenting, it's easy to find ourselves uttering those familiar words: "No," "Don't," and "Stop." But did you know that these seemingly harmless words can trigger a cascade of stress-inducing reactions in both your child's developing brain and your own? In this blog post, we'll explore the power of "yes" and why telling children what to do, rather what not to do, can be a game-changer in cultivating harmony in your home.

When we constantly resort to "no," we unwittingly release a slew of stress-producing hormones and neurotransmitters in both our children's and our own brains. These chemicals can immediately interrupt crucial brain functions, leading to diminished logic, reason, language processing, and communication. To make matters worse, a disapproving frown when saying "no" can release even more stress hormones, contributing to increased anxiety and irritability. Ultimately, this can undermine the precious bonds of connection and trust between you and your child, which ultimately can result in more power struggles!

Of course, we're not suggesting that you should never say "no" to your child; that's simply unrealistic. No is a complete sentence and children do need to learn it! (Though you may have noticed your young child has most definitely learned the power of "no!" and you hear it quite often!) 

Rather than relying on "no", we suggest a powerful alternative: the art of finding the "yes" and telling your little ones what to do rather than what not to do.

Here are some practical examples to illustrate the shift:

"Find The Yes" is just one of the valuable tools we're excited to share in our upcoming Peacemaker Parenting Preschoolers workshop this month. If you're THE parent of a 3-5 year old who is seeking to parent with peace and purpose while breaking generational cycles of harsh parenting and physical punishment, this workshop is designed specifically for you.

Lessons My Toddler Taught Me About Meltdowns

My toddler seemed to be having fun. Everything seemed great–but then she saw that her brother had one of the 20 yellow fish toys they’d been happily sharing for an hour. She began to melt. We were outside in our yard, but we were living in a busy neighborhood and the screams and flailing became really intense. My mind immediately went to “What on earth will my neighbors think of us?!” and I became dysregulated myself. The logic I tried to use to help her was not working and things were just ramping up. So I carried my three-year-old upstairs to a quieter place to try to figure out what was going on–also to hide from the public eye, because who wants that kind of pressure?! I was trying to stay calm but to be completely honest, I was in tears too. I did not grow up in a community that “navigated” toddler meltdowns with much grace–they weren’t really allowed and moms who navigated or tolerated them with anything besides punishment were often shamed. I didn’t really know what to do, but I do remember mustering all of the willpower I could and I decided that even if I didn’t know what to do exactly, I wasn’t going to lose it with my kid in this moment. The screaming lasted longer than I’d ever seen–20+ minutes. Nothing I mentioned seemed to help. My child was not interested in breathing, or I spy, or hugs, or connecting with me. She was just loud. But then I got a clue and she said something I won’t ever forget– “Help me, Mommy!” That was something I needed to get me through not only that meltdown but every other toddler meltdown I’d experienced with my children from that day on. I stayed nearby. Reminding her I was there when she was ready and that she was safe. It lasted a long time, but she settled and crawled into my lap. Sobs became less and less until they stopped. We re-connected and after a snack and a juicebox, we went back to playing. 

Surely I’m not the only one who has taken a big ole toddler meltdown personally–right? (pssst, if you’re wondering the difference between a tantrum + a meltdown read here)

The intensity of demonstrated emotions can be a super huge burden to bear–especially if toddler emotions were met with punishment when you were a kid. Your toolbox may feel a bit empty as you find yourself in the middle of these instances. But the thing I took from that experience I shared above is this:

 A meltdown isn’t any more fun for your toddler than it is for you. 

I used to think a toddler who was screaming and yelling was doing something that they really wanted to do and just needed a lesson in self-control to learn how to control what they desired to do. That isn’t the case. I repeat: that is not the case! 

That recognition of the frightening struggle a child is having during a meltdown opened my eyes to some other mindsets that have helped significantly as I’ve navigated more and more of these big feelings with my kids:

  • A meltdown doesn’t feel any better for your toddler than it does for you–they are out of control 
  • When meltdowns happen, your toddler doesn’t know how to immediately get out of it
  • Trying to force an end to a toddler meltdown doesn’t teach or help them with anything–suppression isn’t the answer
  • One of the only things a parent can offer a toddler in the thick of a meltdown is a calm body of quiet support
  • When a toddler is in meltdown mode reasoning is not an effective strategy
  • Don’t set a time limit in your mind– you’re in this for the long haul with them and your love won’t waver. You are both safe
How does this help? Well, when we can get ourselves into such a posture of peace that their behavior doesn’t shake us, it helps everyone. And for as icky as it can feel for everyone during a meltdown moment, they do always end. That is another big one – These big feeling moments are loud and can feel so long, but they do not last forever. Being a calm and safe body in the middle of a feelings storm for your child is one of the few tools they can actually use to pull themselves out–remember that, mama. It’s a tough job–but you’re helping your child way more than you know when you’re able to keep, or reclaim your peace through these intense moments.

Want to hear more about what each of these things look like in practical everyday life? Do you have a particular struggle you’re trying to navigate that you want some coaching in? We have a toddler workshop coming up that will cover these things and more and we’d love to have you join us! 

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