Becoming A Better Parent

By Joris Louwes

Whether parenting a teen, junior high, elementary school, or preschool age child there are some parenting strategies that spread across the age continuum. It is even a great technique to use with other adults.  For all creative purposes, we will call it “naming the feeling.”

How this technique works is by really listening to what the individual is having to say and then naming the feeling for them.  “It sounds like you are really angry right now.”  When we label the feeling, people begin to feel understood and often lessen in intensity.

Feeling understood is huge when it comes to de escalating a conflict.  It disarms individuals and can soften them.  It can make people feel you are really understanding them.

When we come back at someone who is expressing themselves with judgements, yelling, and accusatory statements, it can make things worse.  The result: heat rising, more conflict, and/or withdrawing follows.

Naming the feeling doesn’t mean we have to agree with the individual or take their side.  It simply says, “I really hear what you are saying.”  Sometimes that’s all someone is wanting from you.  They want you to hear what they have to say.  Period.

One challenge in using this technique is our own triggers being set off.  Like my cat meowing right now while I am trying to think about writing this article.  It is triggering me.  I want to yell at him right now for sounding so loud and demanding, but instead, I will name his feeling right now.  “It sounds like you are really hungry right now.”  Off to his food dish he goes and the meowing ceases.  Who knew it even worked for pets?!

Triggers are switches inside of us getting turned on when something around us happens.  Like when your kid says, “We never do anything fun.”  You find your eyes get big (you know you are being triggered) as you recount the previous 24 hours where you made homemade waffles, took the ferry into the city, played at Pier 39 all day, and had Amici’s pizza on the way home.  Yes, no fun at all.  At this point you may want to yell and take back all the past and future fun because you just got TRIGGERED.  But if you were using the naming the feeling technique you might say, “It sounds like you are really bored right now.”

In the effort of conscious parenting (another topic for another day), I strongly encourage you to give this technique a try.  And when you do, I want you to watch what happens.  Does your child make eye contact with you and nod his head like you are understanding them.  Do they say, “Yes!” and rattle on more with their story.  See if naming the feeling is all you have to do to help them work through the situation.  Try it with your spouse, co-workers, mother’s group friends, other family members, the list is endless.


I can handle what comes my way with understanding.