They say kids don’t come with an owner’s manual. And that’s precisely why—as any parent can tell you—an army of experts has stepped up to try to write one.
Seemingly endless advice is pumped out by what one writer calls the “Parenting Industrial Complex.” There are podcasts and stand-up specials and best-sellers about parenting. We envy the way they do it in France and The Netherlands and Mexico. Our children are orchids or dandelions or spirited or out of sync. We anxiously worry that we, as parents, are becoming helicopters or lawnmowers or snowplows. We’re told we need to look at our children’s whole brains and wrestle them (like, physically, to the ground) and wear them out for a while but then, just a few short years later, take them to danger playgrounds.
Google the phrase “Parenting Tips” and guess how many hits pop up? 291…MILLION. (Our beloved Cat & Nat hilariously capture the maddening amount of advice aimed at moms in particular in this video, which is a straight-up gift to the universe.)
So how do you cut through the noise and unearth some information that’s actually helpful? We find the most actionable advice tends to be the simplest (because we’re honestly too tired to remember anything hard). That’s why we love this behavior management tip from Positive Parenting author Rebecca Eanes:
“Accept Feelings. Limit Actions.”
Writes Eanes: “Feelings are neither right nor wrong. They simply are what they are. We feel what we feel. What we do with those feelings, though, is extremely important, and that is a large part of emotional intelligence. It’s not about just understanding and accepting feelings but also teaching children appropriate actions around those feelings.”
To Eanes, the key to raising emotionally intelligent children—kids who will eventually grow up to self-regulate, remain calm and think clearly during conflict or under pressure—is validating their feelings while teaching them the ideal ways to respond to those feelings.
Something to keep in mind the next time your kid bites his little brother, your daughter flings her snow boots out of a moving vehicle or your children lose it in public because you said no to ice cream. Accept feelings: They are real to your child. Making your kid feel ridiculous or ashamed for having them hurts everyone. Limit actions: Giving in to the ice cream tantrum or turning a blind eye to acting out does the same. Try validating their feelings while making a teachable moment out of their actions.
Consider this our new mid-meltdown mantra.