What should I say when my child is upset?

Responding from the thinking brain versus reacting from the emotional system.

How do you feel when you child won’t stop complaining about a playdate that didn’t go their way?

Or when they scream “I hate you,” because you said no to a fizzy soda minutes before dinner?

Many parents find their emotions flare at these times too. We may have an urge to explain, reason, lecture or teach when a child is upset.

And when we find that doesn’t work, we might get angry and yell – even if we don’t want to.

So even if we want to be calm and supportive, we can’t!

Why listening to a child’s upset is key to moving them on

This week, Emily and Kathy explain why brain science says that listening to an upset child is often the best way to support a child through their hard, loud, emotional moments…

…And why just listening can be so difficult for parents!

When parents can notice and move from a reactive state and into their thinking brain they can avoid becoming caught up and triggered by big feelings.

That way, they can lean in, listen and hold the space children need to recover and move on.

Emily and Kathy share ideas on how to go from reactive to responsive when a child is upset, and one or two things you can say that help. 

 Tune In To Hear:
  • How to identify when you’ve slipped into the “emotional soup swamp,” that’s reactive.
  • Why questions and reasoning distracts kids and pulls them away from their own recovery process.
  • Helpful words you can say to support an upset child, whether they are whining, crying or angry.
  • How to translate a child’s hurtful or triggering words to ground yourself.
  • The value of appearing unworried and at ease around an upset child.
The Hand in Hand Parent Club Podcast
The Hand in Hand Parent Club Podcast
What should I say when my child is upset?

One Small Thing…


What’s your mantra? What words can you use to say to yourself to help your body soften and move from a reactive state. Take one of Emily and Kathy’s examples from this week’s podcast or create your own!


Mentioned In This Episode:

Find It Hard To Listen?

This article dives deep into why it’s so hard to listen to a child when they whine, cry and get upset – and has more ideas on what you can say and do to be helpful, supportive and calm: What To Say During Staylistening


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