Create the family you want to have

Do you like how you are feeling?

Angry cat

Angry cat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is another tip for your parenting tool kit.  It consists of asking a simple question to your children…Do you like how you are feeling?

I ask my children this when they are grumbling at me about a perceived injustice or when they are frustrated or angry about something.  This may seem counter-intuitive.  After all, it is pretty clear how they are feeling, and really, who would chose to feel that way?  Also, I believe that many parents have been taught that we are responsible for the feelings of our children.  We are responsible to be kind to our children.  We are responsible for educating our children.  We are responsible for keeping them safe.  But to say that we are responsible for their feelings when we are being kind and keeping them safe is to pretend that we have control over something we do not.  In the moment that our children get angry over harsh words from a friend, or frustrated over homework, then begin to lash out at us, many parents begin to feel as though it is our job to make it all better for them.   We tell them the friend was wrong to say that and go about getting angry at the friend (even if, upon reflection, the friend had a point), or we show them how to do the math problem even though they are too frustrated to learn it.  Many times this way of doing things can leave us angry because we have taken on the feelings of our child and they do not even appear to be grateful for our help!  How irritating.

I have another idea I would like to suggest.  Ask your child, “Do you like how you are feeling?”  Often times this gives a child a moment to pause and think.  They will, in most cases, pause to take in what you are asking, because this is different from your normal response to their behavior.  When they respond that they do not, you can gently suggest that they try to change that.  It goes like this:

Child: I hate Math, the stupid teacher gave us work we’ve never done in class!  (child continues to grumble).

Parent: Do you like how you are feeling right now?

Child: Huh? (Don’t worry- they are thinking about it)… No!

Parent:  Why don’t you change that?

Child: I can’t change it!  This stupid teacher gave us the worst homework ever!  I hate her!

Parent: Yes, and you are choosing to feel very angry about it.  I can see that.  Would you like to make a different choice?

This conversation often ends in a child huffing at you and grumbling some more.  You really do not need to say anything else, unless your child asks you for suggestions to change their mood (then give them some).  Stay curious in your tone, avoid sounding critical.  The goal of this conversation is not to end all bad feelings.  That is not a realistic dream anyway.  Sometimes math is just hard!  However, what you do accomplish with this conversation is a lesson about each of us being responsible for our own feelings.  I have used this conversation with my own daughters since they were three and it has worked quite well.  While they do have some times when they are grouchy, often times, after I ask this question, they end up wandering off to their rooms to reflect for a few minutes and come back to the family with a better attitude.  For younger children, you may want to talk them through it a bit, but I would strongly suggest that you wait until they ask you for help instead of jumping in to give it right away since when they come to you with a question, they are much more likely to listen to the answer.

The unintended consequence of this conversation is good as well.  Now that I use this intervention consistently as part of my parenting tool kit, I also find myself asking the same question internally when I am in a bad mood.  I hear myself grumbling at the children, then I hear my own voice in my head asking if I like how I am feeling right now, then suggesting that I change it.  This is why you want to make extra sure that you say these words to your children with as much love as possible, because soon, they will be echoing in your own ears.

Please feel free to share other ways you teach children to be responsible for their own feelings.  Have you tried this way?  How did it work for you?

May 11, 2012 - Posted by | discipline, help for parents | , , , , , ,


  1. I really like this. I’ve used a form of this question, but not in this way and I am definitely going to use it with my teenage clients that come in grumbling about everything under the sun 🙂

    Comment by licensedmentalhealthcounselor | May 15, 2012 | Reply

  2. […] Do You Like How You Are Feeling? ( Rate this:Share this:TwitterFacebookEmailPrintRedditPinterestLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

    Pingback by Preparing Children for Major Transitions | help4yourfamily | June 21, 2012 | Reply

  3. […] than feeling spiteful and spreading the feeling out toward others.  I detailed this technique in this post.  Reminding your child they have another choice does not include lecturing them about how great […]

    Pingback by Taming the “Nasties” in Your Child- Part 2 « help4yourfamily | August 2, 2012 | Reply

What are your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: