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Learning about feelings
Illustration: Lauren Rebbeck.

My Kid is a Door Slammer

Follow these expert tips to teach kids how to regulate their emotions.

Somehow we raised a couple of door slammers. My wife and I don’t slam doors, but when our kids get really upset, it’s off to their room and wham! A friend told me to remove the doors but that seems extreme. Can I fix this without becoming all unhinged?  

Kimberly Stokka Merendino, Ph.D., play therapist supervisor at Barnemat Consulting, shares the following tips for parents:

One of the most important life skills learned in childhood is the concept of emotional regulation. In a nutshell, this means the ability to experience a wide range of emotion in a variety of settings, in an appropriate way. How can we teach kids this important skill?

Instill Emotional Awareness

Anger, sadness, fear, excitement. Feelings are something that we cannot control. However, we do have the ability to manage how we handle emotion. The first key to emotional regulation is emotional awareness. One must be able to understand and recognize the emotion prior to being able to handle the feeling well.

Identify Emotions

Parents can teach children about their emotions at a very early age by pointing out signs that children are feeling a certain way. For example, “Lilly, I see your fists clenching, your face getting red, and your voice rising. I think you’re feeling angry.” To help children learn this even faster, label your own emotions as you feel them. Parents are the best models for their children on how to handle emotion. For example, a parent might say, “I feel angry when you don’t listen to my words.”

Discuss Appropriate Behavior

Once children have identified how to label their emotions, it’s time for a family meeting to discuss how your family will manage emotions. Is it OK to slam a door? If not, identify more appropriate ways to handle anger such as: Is it OK to scream into a pillow? Take a break in your room? Stomp your feet? Do some jumping jacks? The key is to identify two to three ways to handle anger appropriately in your home.

Next time you see your child getting angry, remind them of the techniques that you discussed at the family meeting. Don’t forget to praise your child when they handle emotion well!

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