5 Ways To More Effectively Ask Your Child, ‘What’s Wrong?’

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Angry kid? Crying kid? Whining kid? We’ve all been there. Here are 5 helpful questions to ask instead of, “What’s wrong?”

“Are you feeling mad/sad/angry right now?”

The answer is obviously yes, but children tend to struggle with communicating their feelings and emotions, hence the whining, floor pounding, and weird sound making. If we can teach them how to use more descriptive words to explain how they’re feeling, then we will be better able to support them through whatever it is they’re dealing with.

“What do you need from me right now?”

Have you ever been upset and just needed time to be upset? Or maybe you needed someone to explain something to you. Kids need that too, sometimes. By asking what they need from us, we are showing them we recognize they are upset and are willing to help them through it if they need us.

mother holds her son in her lap, embracing him
Courtesy of Jordan Whitt (via Unsplash)

“Do you want to be alone until you’re feeling better?”

This is just a fancy way of saying “go to timeout” with a more positive spin. Alone time should not be used as a punishment. It’s very healthy to teach kids that sometimes we need to be alone in order to gather our thoughts before we are ready to talk about things.

If they don’t want to be alone, then communicate that you will happily sit with them while they calm down.

“What happened that made you so angry?”

No matter how silly it seems to you, ask them about what made them so angry. As adults, we tend to minimize the things that make kids angry or upset because, let’s face it, kids get mad about ridiculous things. Unlike them, we have had years of practice with regulating and dealing with our emotions and even still, we suck at it sometimes. Give them some grace, be patient, and use this as a teaching moment.

child covering their face with their hands
Courtesy of Caleb Woods (via Unsplash)

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

If the answer is no, then your job is “done.” But what if there is something they need from us and we never thought to ask? What if all they need is a hug or some good old fashioned advice? Failing to ask how we can help communicates the fact they are in this alone. I don’t know about you, but I never want my kids to stop confiding in me or asking for help when they need it.

Keep Calm And Love On

Super cliché, I know, but that little human you’re raising needs to be met with love and support when they are feeling upset, without receiving any additional anger from you.

Just like when you get upset if your husband buys the off-brand ranch from the store even though you specifically asked for the good kind (and by you, I mean me), it’s not our job to question or dismiss our children for feeling angry or upset about things, no matter how silly they seem to us.

What we can do is use these outbursts or meltdowns as teaching moments and help them acknowledge, communicate, and process their emotions appropriately.

mother holds her daughter on her lap tightly, both smile wide
Courtesy of Vivek Kumar (via Unsplash)

Give It Time

Like most things in life, give this time to work. Usually, our response as parents sucks just as bad (if not worse) as their response at whatever it is they’re mad about. If we can change our response to anger, then their response to anger will change over time, too.

mother and daughter standing hand in hand facing the water
Courtesy of Jametlene Reskp (via Unsplash)

This story was submitted to Love What Matters  by Emmy Bennett from Oakdale, California. You can follow her journey on  Instagram and her website. Submit your own story hereand be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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