39

The article 7 Parenting Essentials says,

  1. Accept your children’s feelings.
    ...
    Instead, comfort your children and let them know you love them, rather than try to talk them out of how they feel.

Google says that “talk them out” means “to discuss a problem in detail” or “to settle something by discussion”.

According to the answer(s) given, correct interpretation is "to persuade someone not to do something".

Why is it a bad idea to tell a child not to feel bad about something? Won't that make the child stop feeling bad and be happy? Does this have any negative side effects?

  • 7
    Usually, "talk it out" means to discuss a problem (the it is the problem), and "talk them/him/her out" means to convince them/him/her that they are wrong. If you have multiple problems at hand, then you might "talk them out", since "them" is the plural objective of "it". So when the word "them" is used, it could be confusing. – Todd Wilcox Jan 10 '17 at 3:32
  • 6
    @ToddWilcox Another way to divide it up might be: "talk it/them out" means to discuss one or more problems, "talk them/him/her out of something" means to convince them that they are wrong. – Tin Man Jan 10 '17 at 18:55
29

Adding to the other good answers and elaborating a bit on the "why" from the child's perspective:

Mirroring

The advice is based on the concept of Mirroring in psychology.

It means that a parent acknowledges the emotion of the child (verbally or non-verbally), e.g.:

I can understand that you are sad. (Meaning that it is okay to feel this way)

Let us see if we can do something about this situation. (Dealing with the situation and the emotion)

Dismissing a child's emotion as wrong results in a conflict between the child's perception ("I feel sad") and the parent's declaration that the child should not feel this way ("It's just a stupid toy!").

Emotions that are not mirrored or even rejected (think: fear, lust, anger) will be dissociated and the child will adapt to it, and negate them in turn. Insecurity and doubt about how and what a child is feeling might make it harder for them to care for themselves and identify the cause of their agitation.

If emotions are mirrored, the child is able to validate the feeling and develop self-perception and awareness for their own emotional life, as well as tools with how to deal with those feelings.

  • 2
    Mirroring often works very well and I like your suggestion. – WRX Jan 9 '17 at 21:17
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    I think it's worth noting that all of this applies to adults as well, except adults will bring more prior emotional development ("baggage", perhaps) into the relationship that children don't yet have. – Todd Wilcox Jan 10 '17 at 3:29
  • "Let us see if we can do something about it." This is exactly what you shouldn't do! What you should do is allow the child to have their emotions. Full stop. – user4758 Jan 11 '17 at 18:02
  • @what I agree, but that's not what I meant. I have edited the sentence and hope it's clearer now – Futurecat Jan 11 '17 at 18:13
  • I generally agree with your answer. Whether or not you should attempt to talk to your child depends, in my opinion, on the type and intensity of the emotion as well as on when you want to talk. See my own answer for a more extended explanation. – user4758 Jan 11 '17 at 18:31
78

The definition you've likely found was the definition of talking something out. "to settle something by discussion: Let's not get mad. Let's just talk it out. Please, let's talk out this matter calmly."

What the article mentions is a slightly different phrasal verb usage: talking somebody out of something. "to persuade someone not to do something: Her parents tried to talk her out of getting engaged."

In other words, it's perfectly fine to talk it out with a child, discuss what they feel, but trying to persuade them to feel otherwise is counterproductive and ultimately futile.

  • 7
    I liked this answer, and agree we cannot stop and should not stop anyone from feeling how they feel. If the reason for the feeling is misguided, an explanation might/will be useful, but the person has to change how they feel about it on their own. "Milly did not take your toy, it fell out of your backpack. Here it is." The child might apologise if they said or did something unkind in retaliation, but not for feeling hurt or angry. – WRX Jan 9 '17 at 13:04
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    Phrasal verbs are very tricky for English learners. – TRiG Jan 9 '17 at 15:15
28

The definition of "talking them out of it" you found is slightly off, just enough to lead to the confusion. In this case, the meaning is "convince the child that they are not angry/sad/happy at all!"

What the advice means is: if your child is angry about something, your child is angry. That is the situation you have to accept. Talking your child out of it would mean telling your child that they are wrong to be angry, that you are sure they are not angry at all, or telling your child how stupid it is to be angry about it.

This is what the advice wants you not to do. The reason for this is that the child is angry, period. No matter whether the reason is silly to an adult, or if you would feel totally different about it. Talking your child out of that would teach the child "I felt angry, but my parent told me that is wrong. Something is wrong with me because I am angry!"

Instead, you accept that the child is an angry, talk about the why, and how do deal with the situation and the anger.

  • 1
    Yes. You don't talk a child out of feelings in the present. You talk a child out of actions in the future. "It's okay to be sad. It's okay to be angry. It's okay to cry about it. It's not okay to scream." My kids learned early what "scream-crying" is and that when they do it they always lose both what they want and everything they had taken for granted. – Bruno Bronosky Jan 10 '17 at 5:42
5

... to talk them out of how they feel.

This means to tell a child that they do not or should not feel the way they do. This is inappropriate because children are already often unsure about their feelings, and how to express them. Telling them that they shouldn't be or aren't angry when they, in fact, are, doesn't actually stop the feeling, it just prevents them from understanding the feeling and expressing it.

They will still feel that way, but you deny them the knowledge and experience to recognize it as anger and to express their feelings when others need to understand actions that result from those feelings.

It becomes a form of emotional constipation.

It's better to teach them how to recognize what they are feeling, what terms to use when discussing that feeling with others, and how those feelings may inform their actions so they can be in control.

So denying them this knowledge and experience, or flat out giving them incorrect information, they actually lose the ability to control their actions or reactions related to those feelings. It can therefore be difficult for them to handle everyday situations, form relationships of trust, and make objective decisions later in life if they don't eventually come to understand their feelings.

3

There's a lot of good answers before this. I have some experience as a school teacher so I can share some perspective. Maybe you should use examples and not expect children to have the same "reasoning" that your own reasoning is trying to determine they have. They're children, you have to go to their level - you can't pull them to your level. Lyna (previous post )has a valid point about proving they don't really feel that way, but that doesn't always work in cases where something reoccurs.

The idea of "talking them out" could turn into you stumbling over your own sense of logic while trying to bring yourself to their level. It's easy to misunderstand a child's emotional logic and 'miss the mark' in terms of actually dealing with it. Often times kids don't even know why they feel the way they feel, nor can many adults know why they feel what they feel. If they did then this world might be a different place.

It's important to use really simple and clear examples to get your child to understand. It's also equally as powerful to use love. By that I mean your child loves you (or someone if you're not around much), so they don't want to hurt you, to cause pain in you. They cry, so they can relate to that. If so, if they do some bad then you can explain how this hurts you (Even if it doesn't really hurt you :]). This is also why it's important for parents to be loving to their children and not just look at them as walking science experiments or whatever else. If they've been neglected from a loving environment then this aspect of developiing emotional intelligence can become terribly difficult.

Beside that, if you're trying to get them to understand rules, it's important to reinforce them through practice and example. It's important for them to know that rules are there to keep them safe. There should be a definite line that you draw, and if they cross the line then it's clearly wrong and they should know it's wrong. It's up to you how you reinforce the line, but lecturing can push the kid even futher way similarly as using physical punishment. They should know why it's good for them to fallow rules (it keeps them safe). Words often are empty and they need to reference 'right and wrong' through experiences. Developing good habits is relative.

It's also good to reinforce the concept of "If" while your child is young. :]

1

The problem that many parents have is that they cannot bear if their child is unhappy or behaves "inappropirately" (e.g. tantrums). The problem is not that a child feels sad or angry or whatever, but that the parent cannot differentiate their own person and feelings from those of the child and that many adults live in a world where any expression of feelings apart from happiness is inappropriate and where any state except happiness is seen as failing at life. These parents feel the sadness of their child as their own sadness and they are ashamed of their child's behavior as if they themselves had behaved in that way.

All children go through phases where they throw themselves on the floor and wail, and all children grow out of that behavior by themselves and without any adult intervention. It happens to everyone and **it passes*. Nevertheless many parents feel as if only their child threw tantrums and as if it was a failure on their part. (This feeling is enforced by the growing number of adults that do not and will never have children of their own and perceive anything that a child does beyond sitting quietly as an intolerable transgression.)

The advice to not talk children out of how they feel tells parents to not identify with their children and accept that they are their own person. People are sad and angry and so on from time to time, and it is normal and healthy to feel that way in certain situations. In fact, as Adam Davis has pointed out in his answer, it is unhealthy to not allow yourself or your child to have these emotions. A child that suppresses their tears or rage or melancholy for the sake of their parent will group up into a dysfuctional adult. If you let your child feel how he or she feels without interfering, they learn how to regulate their emotions. If you try to help them not to feel that way, no matter how sensitive you think you are about it, your child cannot learn this one single most important cultural technique. Psychological research has shown that people who regulate their emotions better are less prone to xenophobia and interpersonal violence.

So if your child cries, allow them to cry until they have run out of tears. Talk to them about it only after they have calmed completely, maybe even after a few hours or on the next day.

Just think about what you yourself would want if you felt sad. Does it help if someone say "it's not so bad"? Does it help, if they want to discuss why you feel sad and what you might do to avoid feeling sad? No! What you want is for your friend to keep their mouth shut (or make soothing noises) and otherwise hold you while you cry until you are done. And then you will feel good and feel happiness returning in a quite wondrous way, without anyone doing anything at all, except allowing you to cry.

Do the same for your child.

0

I have looked at the other answers here and I definitely understand what people are trying to say and think the motivations are good, but I don't entirely agree.

Some emotions are absolutely inappropriate. For example, if a child feels glee whenever they see others in pain then that would be something I want to get a handle on as a parent. The suggestion from other people who have responded here might be to try to build empathy, and that is definitely good, but I think that should be accompanied by a slightly different philosophy than that which typically prevails among people I've met.

I think that one of the most important things to do with children is to be honest and to equip them with tools they need to function harmoniously. I think the most important requisites for functioning harmoniously is the ability to control one's emotions, and it would be dishonest to pretend that all emotions in all settings are valid or okay. Instead, I'd advise letting children know that certain emotions are not appropriate as a response to certain situations, such as feeling delight at the pain of others.

We tell children which behaviours are inappropriate and try to help them act appropriately but often neglect to teach them how to control the thoughts and emotions in their mind, and I feel this leads to a lot of turmoil and stress for people later in life. If we agree that we should teach children not to act certain ways in certain situations, even though it may be difficult for them to control the urge to act in those ways, we should also teach them to control their emotions. It will be very valuable for them in the long run and it is a harmful dogma that children cannot control their emotions, a dogma that leads to adults which cannot control their emotions.

I know this opinion is the minority opinion, and I'm not looking to invite controversy, but from the way you've asked your question I sense that you may also have an intuition that there is some truth to this so I thought I'd offer my take.

Thanks!

  • You are looking at this differently. I think that is a good thing for the OP. It is up to the Original Poster who knows all the ins and outs, to know if your answer has merit. Welcome to Parenting SE. I personally like different opinions. – WRX Jan 11 '17 at 1:10
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    You are absolutely correct that some emotions are completely inappropriate, but correcting the problem behind the emotion is different than talking a child "out of it". Telling a crying child that they are not really sad, but that they are actually happy makes no sense. Labeling emotions correctly helps a child learn to deal with them; mislabeling causes confusion. – anongoodnurse Jan 11 '17 at 4:48
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    For example, if a child feels glee whenever they see others in pain then that would be something I want to get a handle on as a parent. You can't handle that as a parent IMO. Feeling happy to see others in pain is a sign of a mental disorder. Telling them not to feel happy will not prevent them from turning into psychopaths, taking them to a mental doctor may. – Aquarius_Girl Jan 13 '17 at 3:20

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