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Parenting to Promote Emotion and Behaviour Regulation in Kids

Updated: May 29


A guide for parents to support emotion and behaviour regulation in their children and teens


Parenting is a labor of love, and each child brings their unique set of challenges and strengths. Some children are "big feelers" or what we lovingly refer to as "Superfeelers".



For the parents grappling with the challenge of parenting Superfeelers, you're not alone. It's tough when you've tried various approaches and nothing seems to quite click or it only works temporarily. Remember, your efforts matter. Our "Emotion and Behaviour Regulation Tips" document can help guide you through your next steps.


Emotion dysregulation and anxiety can often present as defiance, aggression, poor behaviour choices, shutting down, and oppositionality. However, these outward behaviours should be considered evidence of the level of difficulty the youth is having internally at that moment in time. Often, what we see isn't a choice, but a reflection of our child's level of dysregulation, and a lack of skills.


What do we do now?

First, you need to understand your child's true struggles:


Sometimes, children might find it hard to regulate their behavior and emotions at home and when out in public with their caregivers. It doesn't mean they're not trying or that they're deliberately causing trouble. In fact it really means that there is something else that they are struggling with that is causing these behaviours. Ninety-nine percent of the time the concerning behaviours are a symptom of the level of difficulty they are having- not planned acts of defiance, aggression, or disruption. It could be that they're grappling with overwhelming feelings they don't quite know how to handle yet. It could also be that they are struggling in some other way, such as academically, sensory overwhelm, impulse control, etc.


Know that kids do well if they can.


Review our Emotion and Behaviour Regulation Tip sheet. This document provides clickable links to videos and tip sheets to help support you in better understanding the underlying cause to the presenting behaviours, as well as take a collaborative approach to identifying a solution that works for the child.


This document also provides tips and strategies for emotion regulation, environmental accommodations, supporting transitions, addressing learning concerns, and consequences.








What is CPS?

  • The CPS approach (previously known as Collaborative Problem Solving) is proven to reduce challenging behavior, teach kids the skills they lack, and build relationships with the adults in their lives. This model uses the premise that kids with challenging behavior don’t lack the will to behave well, they lack the skills to behave well.

  • CPS was created by Dr. Ross Greene. His educator workshop videos provide more detail on this approach and can be found here - https://livesinthebalance.org/educators-tour/

  • Dr. Greene believes that concerning behaviour is not the result of poor parenting, poor teaching methods, faulty learning, or poor motivation, rather, its the result of demands that are above the child’s current abilities as a result of missing or poorly developed skills

  • Support the lagging skills = Improved behaviour



How do we do it? (for cheat sheets related to the below steps click HERE)

  • EMPATHY- gathering information to have a better understanding of what’s making it hard for a kid to meet a particular expectation. 

  • DEFINE THE PROBLEM - entering the adult’s concern or perspective into consideration (i.e., why it’s important that the expectation be met). 

  • INVITATION- adults and kids brainstorm solutions so as to arrive at a plan of action that is both realistic and mutually satisfactory - a solution that addresses both concerns and that both parties can actually do.


What are the common lagging skills for kids? Difficulty with....

  • maintaining focus

  • transitions

  • persisting 

  • inflexibility and considering alternative views/solutions

  • expressing needs/concerns/thoughts

  • chronic irritability and/or anxiety

  • sensory/motor functioning

  • concrete/black and white thinking

  • taking Into account situational factors and adjusting the plan

  • social skills/ social cognition

  • impulsivity

  • language and communication

  • handling unpredictability







Emotion coaching involves helping youth recognize and manage their emotions in a healthy way. By helping youth learn to regulate their emotions, you are creating the new neural pathways in their brain for them to learn to do this for themselves!


Emotional Awareness 

  • Knowing what they are feeling is vital for implementing effective emotion regulation tools - help them to describe their bodily felt sense

  • Encourage youth to label their emotions.

  • Create a feelings chart or "emotion word wall" to help youth identify and express their feelings.

  • Use storytelling or literature to explore characters' emotions.


Validate their emotional experiences

  • Validating emotions is the key to letting youth know that you understand why they are feeling an emotion, and that it is ok for them to have that emotion. It lets them know that you get it, they can come to you for support, and they are not alone!

  • Along with labeling the emotion, tell them you understand the why behind it (e.g., the reason for the emotion)

  • Avoid the word “but” - It takes away from all your hard work validating their experiences prior to using this word

  • It does not need to be a long conversation, when done well, this can be quick! How does this sound? “It can be so frustrating to wait your turn because it is so exciting to to get to go on the slide at the park” “I can see you are sad that your friends didn’t want to play with you because you really look forward to playing with them”



Navigating a child's challenges with regulating behaviour and emotions in the classroom requires patience, understanding, and a collaborative approach. By working together and maintaining open communication, we can create an environment where every child feels supported and empowered to overcome these hurdles.



Need help implementing these recommendations? 


Our team at WonderTree is here to help. We have parent coaches (licensed psychologists and social workers) who can support you with these strategies and help you to support your child by understanding their needs and supporting them to build coping skills.



Book Recommendations


Learn more &  find helpful resources at mentalhealthfoundations.ca





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