An important part of positive communication is about accepting all kinds of feelings.
Allow your child’s negative feelings to come out, even if they are hard to hear. Simply being there, without saying much, might soothe and comfort your child. When your child does express his feelings, reflect what you hear back to them: “sounds like you are feeling angry about not being able to play with your friend”.
Avoid criticizing your child’s character. If your child acts out, instead of saying, “Bad girl, how dare you speak to me that way”, you might say, “That kind of language is not OK”. In this way, you are separating the behaviour from the child. You don’t want to imply that your child is bad, or make your child ashamed of feeling a certain way.
Tell children how their behaviour makes you feel. “Don’t hide your feelings”, advises John Gottman, PhD, author of Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child. “In fact, your feelings may be the best form of discipline, as long as they are not used to attack your child”. You might express the depth of your emotions with phrases such as, “I am disappointed in what you did’ or ‘I feel sad that you lied to me”.
Tell your child how you feel about yourself. In this way, children know you have feelings and learn how to express their own. You might say, “I had a bad day at work today, I’m in a grumpy mood” or “I’m sorry I made a mistake”. Be aware that if you spend too much time talking about how you feel, your child might feel overwhelmed (or bored) by your level of emotion. On the other hand, if you never express your feelings, your child might not feel permission to express feelings either.
At times, you don’t need to talk much
It’s normal for kids to have BIG feelings. Children feel their feelings fully and express them loudly because they don’t know that a particular problem won’t last forever. Talk sympathetically with as few words as possible. You might simply say, “I understand” or “Uh huh”.
– Michael Thompson, PhD, co-author of Raising Cain