How Do You Teach A Child To Regulate Their Emotions?

Managing emotions for kids is a life skill. I believe we all are called to work on it throughout our lifetime. The sooner we empower our kids with the truth the more peace there will be in their hearts and our homes. The truth is they will experience intense emotions at times that are hard to regulate and they are called by God to learn to manage them. Scriptures acknowledge we will be angry but calls us in our anger not to sin (Eph. 4:26).


How Do You Teach A Child To Regulate Their Emotions?

Happy mom with emotionally self controled kids text on image reads: How Do You Teach A Child To Regulate Their Emotions?

What are some strategies for emotional regulation?

1) Breathe with them

When I work with a child who is very, very upset or emotionally hyper-aroused, I say, “Your brain has quit working, and before we keep talking we have to get it to work first.”

In our offices depending on the age, we use a variety of ways to teach children how to calm down using breathing. If working with a teen or adult, we teach them coherent breathing from If they are smaller, we use bubbles, pinwheels, and hands-on the belly as well as square breathing to help them calm down.

To start the process of regulating emotions, it’s imperative that the adult teaching this skill does it with the child. This practice usually clears my mind and relaxes my body as well. A very helpful place for an adult managing an emotional child to be as well. I spiritually have taught my children to practice breathing in God’s love and peace and out our frustration and anger.

This simple practice while it only takes a moment, can help a child calm down and began to be able to think clearly again thus receiving direction and discipline in a more respectful manner. In our home, we do this on a calm down step at the bottom of the stairs.

Scripture teaches to be still and know that I am God. When we stop and breathe, we often experience an awareness of not only His presence but also His authority. This helps all of us remember that God is the boss of Mommy and made Mommy the boss of you.

2.Teach them to replace angry thoughts with truth

A great time to teach your child to emotionally self-regulate is to have them practice when they are not upset. Have them think of something that makes them very angry and share what thoughts are going through their minds.If they are hesitant because they might be judged or condemned, share with them the thoughts you struggle with or struggled with as a child. I say to my daughter when she’s getting upset, ‘I hope you’re not hearing in your head that I think you’re bad and I don’t really love you.’

The enemy has come to steal, kill, and destroy. I often find he takes times of discipline or conflict in family life to create destruction through the hidden thoughts in our minds.We want our children to walk in assurance of the freedom of the cross and God’s unconditional love. Equip them to resist the idea that they are bad. Instead encourage them to embrace God’s truth about themselves. Even in the worst moments, that will empower their ability to remain calm.  (A great resource for this is Danny Silk’s Loving our Kids on Purpose materials.

Older children will struggle with saying positive truth inside their head when it seems to conflict with the truth they believe in the moment. A way to avoid that is to use the phrase “even though” and teach them to begin their truth with it. For example, “Even though my dad seems very angry at me, I know he still loves me and wants God’s best for me.

3. Model what regulating your emotions looks like and introduce the spiritual battle surrounding it

When I am upset I often will go to my room for my own “mommy time out.” I also will say things out loud like I know the enemy would love for us to get angry with each other and there to be a distance between us so I am going to pray about that right now with you and ask God to give us peace. Then let’s try again to work through our struggle or address the problem I feel needs correcting.

Teach a child to regulate their emotions through teaching Spiritual disciplines

Regulating emotions looks a lot like self-control and Galatians 5 reminds us that is a fruit of the spirit. I truly believe it is the spirit of God within us who produces character especially when our struggle may be due to the way we were born temperamentally. Powerful personalities make great leaders someday but need to be harnessed by the power of the spirit at work in us. Teaching our children to humbly turn to God when they are emotionally overwhelmed is truly the most powerful tool we can give them to battle their emotions.

How do you teach your child to self regulate? 

I’d love for you to share in the comments below.


Professional Counselor Michelle Nietert, MA, LPC-S provides expertise using her over 20 years of experience as the clinical director of a large counseling center, previous school district crisis counselor, and current private school mental health consultant. Her work on parenting, mental health, and faith is widely recognized. She provides practical solutions, real-life examples and joins her audiences in the parenting trenches raising two school-aged children. Her book Loved and Cherished for tween girls is available now with coauthor and Proverbs 31 ministries writer and speaker Lynn Cowell. Visit Michelle at Counselor Thoughts and be sure to SUBSCRIBE.  You can also check out the Counselor Thoughts Podcast.


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7 Responses

  1. Thanks a lot for sharing this with all of us you really recognize what you’re speaking about!
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  2. So glad you found this post to be helpful!

  3. I can say that I have worked with special needs for 25 years, I have also taught and I can say you are one of the first that has presented these ideas in a clear precise way. I know that there is something that I am going to try with my daughter that I hadn’t utilized yet and I am very impressed and know you have brought joy to families.
    Job 27:4
    Isa 41:10

  4. Amanda, I’m so glad to hear that this helped with your son!

  5. Aww, hope some of the ideas will help you as you work to help her learn to calm down!

  6. Excellent Post, thank you so much. I am really struggling in this area with my 8yr old who may also have autism, so meltdowns are a big part of our lives. I am going to try bubbles with her as if I just ask her to copy my breathing it makes her worse. Thanks for the tips.

  7. I read this today, and implemented it this evening with my son. The deep breathing really made everyone feel better! Hubby even looked at me weird, but was happy when it worked well at calming our son down.
    Thanks for the tips!

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