The Mistake I’ve Been Making

I love the three easy steps to helping myself and my kids in their own emotions. It is a sure plan that helps every time.

Well, every time that it works, that is. 🙂

When I’m in an emotion and I take those steps, I find peace every time. And not just peace, but I feel progression in my life. Like I just shed an old layer and took a successful step forward on the path to who I need to become.

But when my children are in their emotions and I do the steps with them, there are some times that it works, and other times that it just doesn’t. Most often, it doesn’t work because they are so strong in their emotion that they don’t want to listen to me at all. Especially me calmly saying, “Go inside and ask yourself . . .” etc. When they are in that place of intense anger or sadness or fear, they don’t want to do anything I say.

I get it. I’ve been there too. When I’m mad, I don’t want anyone telling me what to do. That’s just plain annoying.

And that was where we were last week with my six year old. She’d been explosive and angry quite regularly when she got home from school. Like every hour of the day for multiple days in a row. I was getting exhausted!

I tried the “sure-fire” steps–I tried asking her about her anger. But we got nowhere except for more screaming, clenching fingers, and some slamming doors. (Me or her? You’ll never know . . .)

I was driving home from an appointment when it finally occurred to me what mistake I had been making all this time: I was using the moment of her emotion as a teaching moment.

BUT her emotions had beat me to it!

They were there first trying to teach her as well! It was like her emotions and her mother were having a battle to see who could dominate and teach my daughter the important lesson that needed to be learned.

Yeah, that’s confusing.


Well guess what. I’ve been losing that battle.

PROBLEM: I was trying to use my daughter’s moment in emotion as a teaching experience, but her emotions were trying to do the same thing.

After realizing this, I decided I needed to talk with her about her emotions—when they were not present. This would mean that if she was open to talking about it, I could have the front stage in teaching her. Hopefully, we could make progress this way.

That time came when we were driving in the car after shopping for her Halloween costume.It was just us two, and I brought up the topic of her being angry so much lately. She didn’t get defensive—she knew it was true. And you know what? I think she was hoping for a little help in this area too.

We talked about the Superhero book series that teaches about emotions, and how anger tells us our boundaries are being violated. She understood it, then she said, “But what about when I get frustrated? That’s different.”

Aha! The light bulb went on for me—I saw frustration as a sub-category to the main emotion anger (explained in this post here), but she saw them as two different things. She didn’t know what to do when she was frustrated!

I suggested that next time she feels “frustrated,” that she say to me, “Mom, I am angry.” Emotion work starts just by identifying the emotion! By her being able to do this, she is taking the first step in working through the moment.

I told myself I would stop trying to make her emotion-moments the teaching time for me, and rather, I would cheer her on to be able to take that first step on her own. We still have time for progress in the next steps.

SOLUTION: I chose a time to teach her about her emotion that was different from when she was actually IN her emotion.

We have ups and downs, and her explosions settled for a while, so she hasn’t had a chance to try it out. And she has probably forgotten about our plan, so I need to make a note to visit this conversation with her again—and not when I have competition.

She’ll get it. I know she will. We all have this capacity. You do too! How is it going for you?

P.S. If emotions are still a confusing maze to make your way through, download this free flowchart that helps you move step by step until you can do it on your own. And if you’re wondering what other feelings lump under the main emotion of anger, check out the Emo-Vocab Cheat Sheet–coming soon!

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