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Video: How to Handle a Meltdown

Lindsay and I discuss one of the most important parenting skills in the history of the universe: emotion coaching. Quick tips for how to handle negative emotions, from a tantruming toddler to a brooding teen (and even a moody spouse).

Special thanks to the Quality of Life Foundation, which made this series possible.

Cross posted from the Greater Good Science Center.


  1. JCD says:

    but what do you do with the poor behavior? i have read lots of gottman and subscribe to your blog, but i am still not clear on how to handle a tantrum. i get that you label and validate feelings, but what if they are screaming “no” to your guess at their feelings, kicking, pushing, etc? sometimes my daughters seem annoyed at my validation of their feelings or seem flooded and nothing i say or do is right. then there are my own emotions, which tend to become less patient and feel more punative as a tantrum continues. what’s a parent to do?  i would love to see multiple examples with step by step details.

    • I can understand why you’d like more information on this – hard to tackle such a complex topic in such a short period of time. I’ve added it to my list of things to cover in more detail on the blog; in the mean time, there is a large section in my book on this, and we of course cover it in my online classes (raisinghappiness.com).
      To start, though: sometimes (often) it is necessary to wait until some of the feelings have cooled (yours and theirs) before you start labeling and validating. I advocate time-outs for both parents and kids (or “time-ins” for kids who need to be comforted in order to calm down) to let the flood pass, and then reconvene to discuss the feelings. It is tempting once the situation has passed to not bring it up again…but then we miss the teachable moment. Once you’ve been doing it for a while, you’ll be able to use emotion coaching in an emerging situation, heading the full blown tantrum off at the pass.

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