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Ways we Invalidate Our Children’s Feelings

I gave one of my favorite talks today to the MOPS group at First Baptist Church in Lewisville.
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What an awesome group of ladies. I am grateful for the invite to speak with them and as I told them, I always learn something new listening to all the amazing moms share. I loved that we had a diverse group of ages today, including a few grandmothers who help to care for their grandchildren.

The talk focuses on how to connect to our children by learning to listen to their feelings. I am passionate about sharing this information, so over the next couple of days I want to share some of the tips and ideas from this talk with you. Much of the information is based on the the book Connection Parenting by Pam Leo, which is available on

Pam talks about how critical it is to build open, honest communication with our kids by truly listening to them. When we validate how our children feel, we show them how much we love them, build trust and we increase their sense of self-worth.

For today, I want to share with you ten ways that parents inadvertently stop children from expressing their feelings. And moms, we do these things from a place of love or from a place of busyness or distraction. We are all doing the best we can, none of us intentionally stop our kids from feeling, at least on a conscious level. What we want most is to make our kids happy, keep them safe from harm and have them know that they are loved!

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You may recognize yourself in this list and you certainly may recognize comments you heard from your own parents, teachers or other adults in your life. So even if you are not saying these to your children, someone else probably is:

Invalidating -There, there, nothing to cry about or be afraid of.

Shaming -Don’t cry, be a big boy/girl, don’t be a sissy, don’t be a baby.”

Threatening – “I’ll give you something to cry about.”

Placating or fixing it – “I’ll get you a new one.”

Distraction – “Let’s go get a cookie, new toy, etc.”

Isolation – “Go to your room until you can stop crying.”

Ignoring  – unspoken or spoken “I won’t talk until you stop crying.”

Outdoing – “You think that’s bad, listen to what happened to me.”

Guilting – “You have so much, you shouldn’t be upset over this.”

Humoring – Child falls, “Did you hurt that driveway?”

When children get these messages from us, we interrupt the free flow of emotion (anger, frustration, sadness, pain) that allows children to process their feelings and move on. If you allow your child to cry for a few minutes and express their feelings, usually they bounce right back and off they go to play.

When we stop children from expressing their feelings, what a child hears is “I am not valid, I am not loveable or worth.” From this, children learn to stuff their feelings. This causes disconnection both from themselves and from you!

Check back tomorrow to see how children store these hurts and what happens when they can’t hold onto them anymore. We will take a whole new look at temper tantrums and why they happen!


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