Skip to main content

Responding to the Big Feels

Sometimes it feels like my main job as a Montessori parent is responding to big feelings and emotions. Especially over the last couple of months when we've all been at home together for extended periods of time. It can be difficult to remember to respond (instead of react) in a calm, collected and helpful manner. In these difficult moments, it can be tempting to jump in and try to distract, solve or explain away a child's emotional response. But, in the end, that's not helpful to our children. By naming feelings and helping them to work through them, we normalize all feelings and help them to eventually handle them on their own.

Responding to big feelings is an important part of being a Montessori parent. Here are some cheat sheets for responding to a child's emotions.

I've found though that how we respond to a feeling really depends on the situation and the child. But, there are some general rules that I keep in mind depending on the type of emotion I am observing. I've made a couple of cheat sheets to help me explain how I approach emotion. First, is the sliding scale of emotions. 
Responding to big feelings is an important part of being a Montessori parent. Here are some cheat sheets for responding to a child's emotions.
On the left side (happy and sad) are the emotions that I have observed (with my children) are those that my children are most capable of having a conversation about. These are the emotions that they might most easily be able to name. They may be able to respond to questions, to choices, and to explain. How I approach these feelings is a bit different than how I approach those on the right. 

As the scale of emotion moves more to the right, the emotional response tends to get larger. The kids tend to me more out of control over their response and less able to reason, explain, or maybe even understand what they are feeling. This is not the time to try and hold a conversation, as questions, or reason. Instead, I respond with more sportscasting (neutrally observing and explaining the situation as a 3rd party observer) and holding space (just being with them and keeping them physically safe.) 

Just keep in mind that the length of each child's scale can change. So some children might have vastly different responses to sadness and anger, and another child it might be very similar. You really have to observe and know your child. And, know that your child can feel more than one emotion from either scale at one time. So your child might be both frustrated and anxious. Or angry and excited, for example. Observation will help you decide the best response.

Responding to big feelings is an important part of being a Montessori parent. Here are some cheat sheets for responding to a child's emotions.
Keeping this sliding scale in mind, I change the phrases I use to respond accordingly. This graphic includes some examples that I might use when observing these emotions. This isn't every possible way to respond, but some of my staples. You'll notice that these phrases sort of mirror the responses in the sliding scales. So at the happy end of things, I might say "tell me about your drawing" and engage them in a conversation. But if there is anger, I may just say "I hear that you're angry. I'm here for you when you're ready" and then just be there quietly modeling some deep breaths. 

Responding to big feelings is an important part of being a Montessori parent. Here are some cheat sheets for responding to a child's emotions.

Here are some more examples on how I would use these phrases: 
  • "I see your big smile." 
  • "I see that you're frustrated by the train." 
  • "You are angry." 
  • "You can take a deep breath." 
  • "I hear your words." 
  • "That was frustrating when the blocks fell over." 
There are so many other similar phrases that work just as well. The goal is just to acknowledge, recognize, and name the feeling in a way that your child can access in the moment. We want to leave additional solutions out of the equation, and try not to add judgment to their emotions. Additional learning about the emotions or how to better handle a situation when your child is calm. 

If this model is helpful for you sign up below for a free PDF copy of these images. 


 
I hope this was helpful! If you want to do some additional reading on how I handle difficult emotions, here are some other related articles: 


Responding to big feelings is an important part of being a Montessori parent. Here are some cheat sheets for responding to a child's emotions.

 ---

Comments

Popular Posts

The Ultimate Montessori Toy List -- Birth to Five -- UPDATED 2021

When you are interested in Montessori, it can be difficult to know exactly what types of products you should get for your home. Or which types of "Montessori" materials are really worth the price. There are no rules about types of products can use the name Montessori which can add to the confusion. Not to mention, every toy manufacturer slaps the word "educational" on the package for good measure! 2021 UPDATE: Please be patient with links this year, with supply chain issues things are selling out faster and restocking slower. I anticipate some of the specialty toys will not restock once they are gone. Puzzles, in particular, have been difficult to find in stock. So, with this post, I'm going to try to help with this confusion! Here's a list of Montessori-friendly toys and materials for babies, toddlers and preschoolers.  First, let's clarify that there is no such thing as a "Montessori toy." Montessori never created toys, bu

Montessori Toddler: Favorite Toys and Activities 18 to 20 months

I've been putting off this post for a little while because I felt a little disappointed that I didn't have more to share. See, Teddy just isn't that into materials, especially those on the shelf. He tends to return to a couple of favorites over and over again and ignore all other attempts at shelf work. But, really that's my own adult feelings getting in the way of Teddy's own interests, and developmental path.  It's also me subconsciously valuing fine motor skills and stillness as more important than gross motor play and movement. I working hard not to do that, and want to normalize that all toddlers are different. All children have different interests and that concentration doesn't have to mean sitting still for long stretches of time.  This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. With all that said, here are some of Teddy's favorites over the last couple of months. Favorite Montessori Toys 18 to 20 Months I'm listing the toys that have be

Our Family's Montessori Christmas Gift Lists 2021

It's hard to believe another holiday season is upon us again. Every year I enjoy putting together my kids' Christmas gift lists. It's really a good time to observe them, see what they are interested in and what they might be ready for during this coming year. It's one of the few times a year that I purchase new materials for our home so it's always really exciting. IF YOU NEED MORE IDEAS DON'T MISS MY ULTIMATE MONTESSORI TOY LIST OR MY 2021 DEALS PAGE ! When considering these lists, please remember that these were curated based on my own children. Use them for inspiration but they are heavily influenced by what my children are into and interested in. And for my older second plane children, what they have asked for!  Here's a look at our family's Montessori Christmas lists for 2021!  This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you.  Theodore (Toddler) Teddy is just over 2-years-old. Being our fourth baby, he is really hard for me to think of unique