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Managing Emotional Mayhem

Posted by Anne Mickelson on

Dear parent,

There are so many parenting books out there – more than we could ever read in a lifetime, right? That is why I have made it my personal mission to read as many as I can and pass along the nuggets of wisdom I think are worth sharing. This month’s nugget of wisdom is from an excellent parenting resource by Dr. Becky Bailey.  If you like the information you see here, check out her short videos on this subject on YouTube or pick up her book.

Managing Emotional Mayhem by Dr. Becky Bailey


In this book, Dr. Bailey suggests helping our kids learn and implement a five-step process for managing their own emotions.  The tricky thing is, however, that we as parents need to actually learn this 5-step process ourselves because kids will learn best from seeing us model this skill, than by simply explaining this in words.

Here are the objectives for children when conducting this five-step self-regulation process as outlined in Dr. Bailey’s book: 

  • - To recognize they have been triggered and take themselves to the Safe Place.
  • - To begin calming themselves enough to identify the feeling they are experiencing.
  • - To select the appropriate Feeling Buddy, naming the emotion and then helping the Feeling Buddy regulate its emotion, creating self-regulatory inner speech for themselves.
  • - To choose calming and/or engaging strategies in order to shift from an upset state to an optimal learning state.
  • - To learn how to address the upsetting event with lifelong problem-solving skills.

Try it out with your child next time he/she gets worked up emotionally. Here are the five steps:

  1. Have your child identify what he/she is feeling – i.e., “I am angry.” You can help them with this by describing their body language to them, helping them learn to “listen” to what their body is telling them.  For example, “Your eyebrows are furrowed and your teeth are clenched.  That tells me that you’re angry.”  “Your shoulders are slouched and you’re saying that your tummy is upset.  That tells me that you’re anxious.” etc.
  2. Help your child calm his/her body.  God wired our brains in such a way that when we calm down our bodies, our emotions are soon to follow.  So deep breaths literally shift our thinking from the emotional part of our brain to the logical part of our brain.  Relaxing our shoulders, raising our eyebrows, loosing our jaw, opening our clenched fists – all help our brain think more clearly when we’re emotional.
  3. Help your child distinguish feelings from identity.  Shift from “I am angry” to “I feel angry.”   Your child is not defined by emotions.  Your child is a child of God who feels emotion.  Huge difference.
  4. Help your child choose how to react to the situation that triggered the emotion.  
  5. Help your child brainstorm ways to navigate similar situations like this in the future.  “Next time, I will…”



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