Adulting is hard. Parenting is harder! Many feel lost and unsure of what to do when their child has a difficult moment. Validation can be a powerful first step.
Validation is an act of showing someone you are listening. When you validate, you are putting words to your child’s emotions and letting them know their feelings are justified. This can help with emotional regulation because they will learn to identify their emotions so they can learn to control them.
Some parents believe validating when a child engages in disruptive behavior is a way of condoning their actions. Validation will not encourage inappropriate conduct, rather it proves to your child that you are on their team.
Often parents want to correct, encourage, or problem solve. Validation lowers resistance because it shows your child you are listening. Parents should validate first so their words are heard. When a child feels understood, they will be more open to feedback.
If your child shuts down because they didn’t get invited to a party:
Don’t say this: “It’s ok. We will do something fun!” Solving the problem too quickly will make your child feel that you don’t understand how big the problem is to them.
Say this: “You feel left out because you didn’t get invited to the party.” Then give your child a chance to further express their feelings.
If your child is having a meltdown after being told they need to put away their iPad:
Don’t say this: “I don’t know why we have to go through this every day! Put the iPad down!” When you escalate, it will encourage your child to escalate. This will start a cycle where no one wins.
Say this: “I know you are upset because you want more screen time, but all of your time is up. Remember you get more screen time tomorrow.”
If your child is worried about a test:
Don’t say this: “You will be fine! You are smart!” Your heart is in the right place, but if you validate first, your child will be more open to hear your encouraging words.
Say this: “You are nervous because you care about your grades. It’s ok to care. You’ve worked very hard and prepared for the test the best way possible.”
Validation may not solve all of your families’ problems, but it will bring you closer to your child.
Written by: Erin Holcomb, LPC, CPCS