Feelings are hard

March 20, 2023, Tiffany Newman

Carson eating a snackFeelings are one of the most difficult things to comprehend. As an adult, I have a hard time understanding or controlling some of my feelings. I can’t imagine being a three-year-old and trying to learn what they are. Yup that is right, my three-year-old Carson is learning all about his feelings lately, which has been very challenging for the whole family.

Learning feelings and having them happen do not all come at once. Understanding when you are angry or sad or even happy is a gradual process that happens over a period of time and as things in your life come about. Carson started learning and understanding his feelings around his third birthday when he moved into his current classroom at daycare and preschool. Here they talk about feelings almost daily because, well, preschoolers are challenging. People constantly talk about the terrible twos, but honestly, the “threenager” years, as I like to call them, are a whole other level. When children are three, they have all these weird feelings and compulsion issues, but they can form sentences and communicate better. All of this combined creates a rollercoaster of emotions and impulses that they do not know how to deal with, which creates a lot of yelling, a lot of crying, a lot of not listening, and a whole lot of learning.

Caleb in a green shirtCarson is such a fantastic little boy, do not get me wrong, I am proud of him in so many ways, but like all kids, he has his moments. These moments I am talking about are the roller coasters of emotions. The emotions that I am caught off guard by or don’t really understand. For example, I will get dinner on a plate for him, and instead of just being okay with it, he gets upset because it is not the plate he wants (like I could read his mind). So, I ask him, what plate do you want? He will usually tell me what color plate he wants, but sometimes it is dirty, so it is in the dishwasher. Well, this cannot be, and he gets more upset. After trying to explain to him that the plate he wants is dirty and we need to clean it first, he just starts getting madder, which worsens my frustration. If he does not calm down after a little while of trying to figure out alternative plates, etc. I will usually take him to his room and have him sit down (still screaming) until he is ready to talk to me calmly. Unfortunately, this seems to be the only way to calm his emotions down. I will leave him for about 5 minutes and then walk back into the room, where I will ask if he is ready to talk. He sometimes is ready, and other times needs some more time. Once he is ready to talk, we will usually sit on the floor in his room and talk about the feelings that he was having, and I will tell him about the feelings I was having. This allows him to understand that it is okay to have those feelings, but walking away and calming down is better than yelling. Now, this is a lot for a three-year-old to try and comprehend, but I figure the more he is exposed to those kinds of talks and trying to really understand why he is getting upset, might help him as he gets older, at least that is what I am hoping.

With feelings also comes testing boundaries and seeing how far he can push us. We are trying to teach him that no means no, and just because you don’t like why we said no doesn’t mean you get to do it anyways. When he doesn’t listen, we take toys away, or they get put on time out for a certain amount of time. We also use another tactic which is taking away something that he really loves to have in the morning, hot chocolate. We started giving him hot cocoa in the morning as a prize, something he got to have for going to bed quietly and staying in bed. It worked extremely well, but now, because mommy has coffee every morning, he thinks he gets it every day too. Now, I don’t mind him having the hot cocoa, but we call it a privilege, and when he is not listening, that privilege gets taken away. This is one thing that really helps to get him to listen. We also are trying to get him to understand that the actions that he chooses to have consequences. Yes, I know that this is all a lot for him at his age, but to use, having him start to understand this at an early age, I am hoping, will help him as an adult (it could also backfire, I really don’t know, but like all parents, you just have to try and do your best).

Carson in a red hoodie at a table with drinksAs a three-year-old, his emotions and feelings are all over the place, but he is learning. He now knows how to communicate with us when he is feeling angry or when he is feeling sad, which is such a great start, and we are so proud of him for that. Like many people, we must teach him how to control and deal with those emotions.

One of the hard parts of having a kiddo starting to understand emotions and know what feelings look like on people’s faces is that now he will look at me a lot and ask, “Mommy, are you sad?”. I just have to look at him and say, “No, sweetie, mommy is just tired.” or “No, mommy is just thinking,” or my favorite is, “no, this is just what mommy’s face looks like at the moment.” Apparently, I need to smile more. Luckily after I respond, he says, “Mommy, I will make you happy!” and comes over and gives me the biggest, sweetest hug, and I definitely feel happy afterward.


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