When our kids are having all the BIG feelings, their reactions and behaviors might not be super pleasant to be around. When they get triggered, it’s all too common for us as parents to escalate right there along with them. But have you seen this quote before? “An escalated adult cannot deescalate an escalated child.”

So in that moment when our kids are escalated or escalating with ALL the big feelings- what are we supposed to do?! First we notice the signs in our bodies that we are getting worked up, or escalated. Do you feel hot? Do you clench your teeth or clench your hands? Do you feel your heart beating faster? Where do you notice these physiological signs that it’s time for you to take a chill pill?

After we recognize that we are in fact getting escalated right alongside our kids, then we insert a pause. Take a beat, take a breath, and notice what’s happening here. Once you’ve gotten yourself under control, it’s time to help your child regulate their emotions. They need your help with this. If they were able to regulate their own emotions independently, we wouldn’t be in this escalated situation to being with!

If your child is not already at a 10, at 100mph, at the height of their anger, frustration, or whatever other feeling- you’ve got an opportunity to intervene and slow that train down. If they are on their way to climbing that escalation ladder, you can help them come back down. If they are already at the top, the strategies we are talking about today might not be super helpful.

text: don't just give more attention
text: don't just give more attention

Your child is on the way to maximum escalation and you are not on your A game because you’re having an emotional reaction to their behavior at the moment. What do you say to them?! Here are eight emotion coaching phrases that you can use to help start the emotional regulation process.

8 Things You Can Say When Your Child is Having BIG Feelings

  1. I see that you are ___(describe the specific behavior they are doing).
  2. I hear you.
  3. I’m here with you.
  4. It’s okay to feel _____.
  5. It’s okay to feel _____. It’s not okay to __(specific inappropriate behavior like hitting)__.
  6. It sounds like you feel _____.
  7. I’ll be right over here nearby whenever you are ready for me to help you.
  8. Breathe with me. Help me breathe.

Self-regulation is not developmentally appropriate. Their little brains are still growing and developing and cannot be expected to just deal with these big feelings completely on their own. Co-regulation means that we as their parents stay in it with them. We must get hold of our own emotional reactions to what is happening so that we can model calming and coping strategies and stay present with our kids to bring them back down that escalation ladder.

Having some go-to phrases or sentences can help you in that moment so that you don’t have to think on your feet while you are trying to deescalate yourself and your child through co-regulation. What things would you add to this list??