It’s very tempting when you see your child jumping up and down and screaming inappropriately in church or at story time in the library to say, “Shhhh” or tell them to calm down. But, the reality is they cannot stop the feeling of excited from coming and they have to do something in order to deal with that feeling.
Being excited is a strong, common feeling for all children. But unfortunately children don’t always know how to socially respond to powerful feelings, like excited. So sometimes they deal with these feelings in inappropriate ways. As parents, we need to teach our children exactly what to do when feelings like excited come.
This type of emotional education should go something like this;
First, sit them down in a quiet moment and say, “You know when you’re really glad that something happened or you learn something from a story that makes you want to cheer, that’s called being excited!”
Second, tell your child WHO gets excited. It’s your cousin when he is surprised by a new puppy, it’s you, knowing you get to go to the park with friends, it’s how you (and everyone) feels at their birthday party- because EVERYBODY feels excited! This helps your child understand they are not the only one who gets excited (or any other feeling for that matter). Furthermore, it’s our job as parents, to suggest the behaviors they can do when they feel excited.
Third, kids learn best through play. So play a game with your child, where you pretend you’re going to a party and start jumping up and down for joy. Then tell him that’s a great way to deal with excited when you are at home or at grandma’s house, but if you are in a quiet place when excited comes it will work better to smile and whisper. If your child is resistant, remember to model this yourself when you’re excited to show them how to deal in a different way. Ultimately, you do what you want your child to do!
When your child does show excited in a positive way remember to look at them, touch them and say, “You know exactly how to deal with excited!”
Telling our children to not feel something is second nature, because as parents we want to help them out when they don’t know what to do in certain social situations. But, telling them to ‘not be a feeling’ never works because it’s a biological fact that feelings come whether we want them to or not. So next time the urge to tell your child to not be so excited comes, try instead to help them learn new ways to deal with the feeling!
Keep in touch as I love hearing your stories about how your family is dealing with their feelings, Dr. Ann