This simple little tip can help children develop their emotional literacy as it helps them to ‘own’ their feelings. You see when someone does something that induces an emotional response we tend to say,
‘You made me sad/angry/feel humiliated etc’
However, a better way to learn to express our feelings would be to say,
“When people do X, I feel Y”
…because the reality is your emotional response was your unique reaction. Another person might have had a completely different emotional response to that same situation. What’s more, the person you are talking to cannot really challenge how you feel, whereas they are more likely to become defensive and challenge your response when you accuse them of causing your emotional state.
So if a child says, ‘you made me angry,’ you can help them change it to, “When people don’t let me have an ice cream, I feel angry.” This helps your child to:
1) Understand that emotional responses come from within (albeit often as a reaction to something external).
2) Link cause to effect
3) Express their feelings in a way that does not make the feelings somebody else’s responsibility and therefore they ‘own’ their emotions.
4) Express their feelings in a way that is less confrontational than blaming others for how they feel. This makes a calm response from others more likely.
5) Start the process of reflecting upon their emotional responses and coping strategies to address them.