our everyday life

Teaching Kids About Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors

by Dana Hinders

Most parents want to raise a child who is kind, considerate and makes positive choices. Teaching your child how to constructively deal with thoughts, feelings and behaviors is an important step in his emotional development, but you must recognize that this is an ongoing process. You will likely need to work on developing an awareness of emotions over a long period of time, using several different teaching methods.

Teach the PIE Approach

The PIE approach may be a helpful way for children to better understand their thoughts, feelings and behaviors. PIE stands for process, identify, and express. Children need to process their response to a situation, label the emotion and then come up with an appropriate way to express their feelings. Most adults do this naturally, but the process of self evaluation needs to be taught to a child. Children act on impulse and need to be shown how to think through the consequences of their actions. Get in the habit of asking your child about his day and walking through the PIE approach for any challenging emotional situations.

Model Positive Behavior

Children mimic the behavior of their parents, so be conscious of how you handle your own emotions. When you are faced with a challenging emotional situation, talk to your child about how you choose to react. For example, if you are taking homemade chicken noodle soup to friend who is ill, explain to your child that you are worried about your friend and that taking soup to her is your way of expressing this concern.

Make Craft Projects

Crafting can be an effective way for young children to learn how to express their emotions. Have your child draw pictures representing what people look like when they are happy, excited, sad, angry, confused or afraid. Make a collage with pictures from old magazines that shows different things you can do to handle emotional difficulties, such as telling a funny joke to a friend who is sad or petting a cat to calm down when you are angry. Have your child write a story about a character who faces a tricky emotional challenge, such as being sad after a friend has moved away.

Read Books About Emotions

Reading books about emotions, such as "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" by Judith Viorst, is helpful for children because it gives them the vocabulary they need to express how they are feeling. The more names a child has to identify emotions, the more likely he is to express himself through language instead of negative behaviors, such as hitting or bullying other children.

About the Author

Dana Hinders is an Iowa-based writer. She earned her B.A. in journalism and mass communication from the University of Iowa in 2003.

Photo Credits

  • Ezra Shaw/Digital Vision/Getty Images