5 steps for teaching kids about emotions


This is terrible”,”I don’t want to take this home”, “I am going to throw this in the bin”, “I need to start again”

Sound familiar?

The need of some kids to get things right, avoid a mistake or meet their own high expectations can cause BIG emotions and stop them trying.

Having high expectations can be a good thing. It can motivate children to keep trying and persevering. Except when it does not. Then I see kids ripping up their work, coming to me and asking for another piece of paper or an eraser.

I have seen how these perfectionistic tendencies can cause a child to get “stuck” because they are overcome by the Emotion Wizzy Dizzy aka BIG emotions like anger, disappointment, worry or just plain sadness. We like to teach the kids its like being on a wizzy dizzy, roller coaster of a really scary ride. Those BIG emotions makes us dizzy and we feel the “emotion” in our body.

Try these ideas to give your children skills to accept the trials and tribulations of the learning journey.

1. Share calm down techniques

Breathing is one of the easiest ways to calm us when we are on our Emotion Wizzy Dizzy. Long, slow breathing releases a range of calming neurons that replace the stress hormones that are released when we are experiencing BIG emotions.

2. Teach them how to recognise and express emotions

We know that behaviour is a result of our emotional state. Stuck in traffic and late to work, chances are you will be in foul mood. Kids are just the same and because they are still developing their ability to emotionally regulate, they are likely to feel it much more.  All of those emotions will impact on a child’s ability to keep trying and learning. In order for your child to deal with mistakes they need to first deal with their behaviour.  Visit here for our video of how you can support your child express their emotions when they are struggling. 

3. Reflect back the emotions you are seeing

It can be hard for some children to tell you how they are feeling. Sometimes they don’t have the words. To teach your child to identify their feelings you can,

Step 1: Reflect the emotion your child is feeling Instead of “How are you feeling?” try “You seem to be…”

Step 2: Explain the feeling – e.g. you could say “It can be sad, when…” This signals that it is okay to feel emotions. You could share a time that you have felt this emotion. If your child has done something unhelpful like saying something mean or hitting someone, it is important to make sure they understand that the feeling is okay but unhelpful actions are never okay. You may choose to do this once they have calmed down and can listen.

Step 3: Support and hold space to feel the emotion. Everyone needs time to feel so validate your child’s emotion by being with them. This helps them know they are safe to experience this emotion. You could hug them and rub between shoulder blades to release a DOSE of calming neurons.

4.  Teach kids how we learn

Many people, especially, those with high expectations believe that learning is a straight line. For example, each time I practice I get better and better.  However, in reality it is a squiggly one which when you add in mistakes can sometimes be described as “one step forward, two steps back.”

5. Catch their language and help them reframe with a growth mindset

If your child thinks their work is terrible there is little point trying to convince them that it is great. However, helping your child to reframe by recognising that learning takes time can be really effective. 

“This is terrible” could  become “If I keep practicing I will get better”

 “I am going to throw it in the bin” may become “This is my first practice”

 “I need to start again” may become “How can I make this better?”

We use BAT and the Emotion Wizzy Dizzy to help kids regulate their emotions. To learn more click here.


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