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the Parenting ABCs

Parenting ABCs

Imagine this scenario with me:

You are upset and you are crying. Something really terrible has happened and you are full of emotions.

Someone you know, love, and trust comes to you and says,

“You’ll be fine.

Stop crying.

Just calm down!

You’re overreacting.

It’s not a big deal!”

How do you feel in this moment? Perhaps a little offended, frustrated, or maybe even more emotional.

Now, imagine saying this to a child, when they are showing you a big emotion. For them, something has happened that has warranted this big response. To us, and our somewhat rational adult brain, we know they are upset about something we find insignificant, or even manageable. So we try to tell them they are okay or to calm down.

But to them, this is a big deal, and the person they trust the most has just dismissed their emotion. How confusing must that be for that child!

Maybe it’s time to consider adjusting our approach to big emotions presented by our kiddos. The formula is a simple ABC, but trust me, it’s not always that easy.

Acknowledge the emotion

Boundary setting

Control offered

Acknowledge the emotion helps coach the child and identify the emotion they are displaying. It is also validating for them to know they, and their feelings, are being seen and heard.

For example: “I can see you are really upset/mad/sad”

Boundary setting reminds the child of their limitations, rules, or consequences. This is your role as the adult to remind them this.

For example: “We cannot run across the street by ourselves because it is not safe”

Control offered is giving the child a sense of control when their emotions feel out of control. It can help ground them or calm them, or shift their thinking into something else.

For example: “When we get home, you can help me choose what to make for dinner”

All together, our responses to children can look something like this:

“I know you are mad because you don’t want to wear your snowpants. It is really cold outside and the snow pants will keep you warm and safe. Once we are all bundled up, we can go outside and you can be in charge of making the snowman.”

I hope you are able to try some ABCs in your interactions with the kiddos around you. This will help all of us be more emotionally aware, and strengthen emotional and social connections.

ABC approach presented by Dr Becky. For more information on her parenting support, see her website:

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