mad or sad, does it really matter which one it is?

January 9, 2010 at 11:27 am 3 comments

If you ask our six year old what Feeleez is for she says: To help kids feel better. And then our two year old interrupts her and says: No it’s not! It’s for mamas! For mamas to point to what they feel and then they feel better. And they are right, both of them.

A child can pick up a Feeleez card that they relate to, or point to a character on the poster and feel understood, which makes everybody feel better. Parents need any tool they can get to help them find out what the heck a kid is feeling. Because, let’s be honest, sometimes we have no idea in the world. The flailing, kicking, sobbing explanation that we so often receive from them does not bring the clarity that so many of us crave.

I then asked our six year old:  Why is it important that parents know what kids are feeling? And she said: Because sometimes the parents might be mad at the kid for what they are acting like or feeling, but really the kid is just sad or mad and the parents don’t know it. I feel a little sad about this answer because I think she’s right. We are short tempered because of our misunderstanding.

We need to know what they are feeling in order to have empathy for them. It is helpful to know that they feel scared about starting dance class and that is why they are refusing to put on their shoes(or coat, or seat belt). It’s easy to comfort a scared child with empathy. It looks like this:

Ohhh, you’re scared about dance class. You’ve never been there before and don’t know what it will be like. Are you thinking that if you don’t put on your shoes we won’t go to dance class and then you won’t feel scared? Can I hold you while we talk about our plan and what dance class might be like?

It’s impossible to force shoes on her.

We need to know what kids are feeling in order to help them with empathy. And they need to see empathy in action every day, in every possible scenario, in order to learn how to give empathy.

And why do we want our children to have empathy?

The ability to understand another person’s feelings is crucial to almost every human interaction. Often as parents we try to teach this through rules like: Say Thank You and No Hitting. We are trying to instill a sense of concern for another person’s feelings. But a child that has been nurtured with empathy will come to this understanding naturally. They will notice how good it feels to be thanked and, because they are aware of feelings and how they themselves affect the feelings of others, will begin to thank people without any prompting. A child that has had their feelings honored with empathy, no matter what, will learn about hitting and the painful consequences to others. They will be capable of empathy for others that are hurting, because they have experienced empathy themselves.

In other words, teach empathy and everything else will fall into place.

It really is deceptively simple: discover what your child is feeling, love them and support them through this feeling with empathy, child learns empathy through modeling, the child uses empathy as they move through the world and becomes the kind of human being that is a joy to be around.


Entry filed under: empathy, Feeleez, life lessons, parenting principles. Tags: , , , , .

sadness makes a lousy souvenir exposed

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jenny  |  January 9, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Can I buy your Feeleez posters in the UK?

    • 2. nataliechristensen  |  January 9, 2010 at 4:37 pm

      We’ve been working on getting a distributor in Europe but for now you can order through our site and we ship it via USPS. If you want to email me,, with your address I can calculate exact shipping costs for you. Thanks! Natalie

  • 3. Marina  |  January 11, 2010 at 1:14 am

    Natalie, that is so well said. Wow, I am just amazed at how you make it so simple and understandable. Thank you. I love your blog.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 31 other followers

%d bloggers like this: