“But She Makes Me SO MAD!” – Own Your Emotions and Help Your Kids to Do the Same

The concept of emotional freedom was introduced to me about six years ago. Few ideologies have impacted me more, before or since.

Recently, however, I’ve realized that this way of thinking does not come easily to my children. In hopes of equipping them well before their adulthood, I’ve been searching for practical ways to explain emotional management to kids that not only make sense, but that empower them and give them tools for handling everyday situations. The PIE approach is just the tool I’d been looking for.

First things first, allow me explain what emotional freedom means to me…

The Basic Premise of Emotional Freedom

  1. I am responsible for all of my emotions. No one can make me feel anything I do not choose to feel.
  2. You are also responsible for your emotions. It is not my job to “make you happy,” and likewise, you do not have the power to “make me angry.”
  3. It is more effective to communicate emotions without blame or judgment.
  4. Resolutions come quicker by first listening to and understanding the other person.
  5. If I feel threatened or irritated by something you do, I need to check myself and ask myself what I need in that moment. I may have to find it elsewhere.
  6. When unwanted emotions arise, it is often because of a story I have created in my mind that may or may not be true. I can evaluate that story, asking myself, “is this really true?” and then notice the emotions I have created around false assumptions. For example, if I have the thought, “No one else cares whether this house is clean. All I ever do is pick up after my ungrateful family,” this thought leads to negative, egocentric emotions and more thoughts that support the first… “They never listen to me,” “My husband is lazy,”  “I didn’t sign up to be slave labor,” “I hate cleaning,” and “I’ll just let them live in their filth and see how long it takes before they appreciate me.”  If instead, I check that first thought for truth, I quickly realize the error in my thinking. Actually, my family does appreciate a clean house, and I do many other rewarding things aside from cleaning.  Furthermore, I love to clean, I am quite good at it, and derive satisfaction from tending to my family. What I needed in that moment was appreciation. It is futile to expect my family to give me this every time I need it, so I need to look for appreciation elsewhere.

Feelings are much like waves, we can’t stop them from coming but we can choose which one to surf. – Jonatan Martensson

I don’t know about yours, but my kids are comically quick to blame just about anyone (or anything) else for the way they feel or for their part in conflict. My five-year-old is notorious for run-on phrases like, “She made me so mad and I didn’t even do anything to her but she took my favorite sticker and now she’s lying!” The eight-year-old, who cries quicker and louder than anyone else in the family bellows, “Everybody is SO mean to me! I never get what I want and you all just love making me frustrated!”

Honestly, there is only so much of this–day after 90 degree day–that I can stand before my OWN emotional management melts like ice cream on a summer sidewalk, giving way to slightly less sophisticated reactions, “Enough!!!! You are driving me insane!!! Everyone to your rooms before you make me lose it all together!!!” (How’s that for emotional responsibility!?)

I don’t like getting to this point. Neither do they. Fortunately, when we are all on the same page about taking responsibility for our emotions, such regressions happen much less frequently.

The PIE approach offers three simple steps that are both easy to remember and simple enough to make sense even to young children. And it works because it is rooted in empathy and understanding–two basic human desires we all crave.

Over time, children can learn to help each other identify emotions, thereby practicing empathy.

A summary of the PIE approach to emotional management…

Process:  Help your children to process their emotions with questions like, “How did you feel when she ripped your picture?”  Or “How did you feel when he called you a baby?”  This helps children understand that these are their feelings, not anyone else’s.

Identify:  Help them to put a name to their feelings. Give them a broad vocabulary for identifying their emotional state.  For even the youngest children, pictures of people in different emotional states can help them identify their own more accurately.

Express:  Give your children permission to express how they feel. They should understand that it’s okay to be sad or angry if they choose to be. Model examples of healthy, honest communication of your feelings without guilt. “I feel very frustrated when you write on the table,” vs. “You make me so mad when you ruin our furniture.” If they understand that they do not control your emotions, they are more likely to mirror the personal responsibility you demonstrate.

Thanks to Angelica from Simple Kids for her article on the PIE approach. To further explore the concept of emotional freedom, I suggest Loving What Is by Byron Katie and Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg.

 

Beth Berry

About Beth Berry

Beth Berry is a writer, mother of four daughters and born idealist living the real life. When she’s not orchestrating the household, she can be found in one of several precarious yoga poses, wandering indigenous Mayan food markets, or holed up in a sunny southern Mexican cafe with her laptop, a shade grown dark roast and a contemplative look on her face. Having lived against the grain as a baby-slinging, toddler-nursing, secondhand-shopping, wanna-be farmer for 17 years, she and her family decided to ditch the rat race for a taste of life abroad. Now, in addition to challenging conventional wisdom, she writes about her life-changing experiences working among women in extreme poverty and oppression. Keep up with her musings and adventures in imperfection at www.revolutionfromhome.com.