Hey there, lovely people. Today, let’s think about creating healthy relationships and fostering emotional intelligence: the difference between teaching behavioral control and emotional control.

Picture this: You’re at a bustling playground, watching kids run around, laughing, and playing. Suddenly, a small scuffle breaks out over a toy, the energy shifts completely, and emotions flare up. As adults, our instinct might be to intervene immediately, telling the kids to calm down or to stop feeling upset.

But wait- here’s the thing: we can guide behavior, we can’t dictate emotions.

Behavioral control is about setting boundaries and expectations around how we act and interact with others. It’s teaching children (and even ourselves) the importance of kindness, respect, and responsibility. It’s saying, “We don’t hit our friends when we’re upset” or “We take turns and share our toys.”

On the other hand, emotional control is a bit trickier. It’s about recognizing and managing our feelings in a healthy way. Emotions are complex and deeply personal. They’re influenced by our experiences, thoughts, and even biology. And while we can help kids understand their emotions and provide tools for coping, we can’t simply tell them to stop feeling a certain way. Actually, we shouldn’t!

Imagine if someone told you to stop feeling sad when you were grieving or to stop being excited when something amazing happened. It wouldn’t make sense, right? Emotions are a natural part of being human, and trying to suppress or ignore them can actually be harmful in the long run.

So, what can we do? First, we adults need to get control over our own emotional experiences before we can be there for our children. Then, we can create a supportive environment where emotions are acknowledged and accepted. We can teach children healthy ways to express their feelings, whether it’s through talking, drawing, or taking deep breaths. We can validate their emotions, letting them know that it’s okay to feel all of their feelings. Help name their feelings: jealous, angry, sad, frustrated, confused, silly, overwhelmed, proud, excited, happy, and so on. Let kids know that we’re here to help them navigate those emotions and that no feeling is wrong.

By focusing on teaching behavioral control while respecting the complexity of emotions, we can empower children to develop into empathetic, resilient individuals. So, the next time you find yourself in a situation where emotions are running high, remember: that while we can guide behavior, we can’t control feelings. And that’s perfectly okay. Let’s embrace the journey of understanding and supporting each other through all the ups and downs of life.

Happy parenting!


Dr. Marnee