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Fostering kids’ emotional regulation is the latest trend in child development, and we can no longer ignore the positive impact of teaching kids to identify and manage emotions. But what does emotional regulation really mean?

Emotion regulation means assuming that much of kids’ behavior is driven by emotions. Tantrums, aggressive behavior, and violence in young kids are often – but not always – a signal of their inability to work out their emotions.

Emotional intelligence therefore means paying attention to kids’ emotions and assuming that kids understand and benefit when we talk to them about feelings and emotions. It’s not just about helping kids identify different emotions. It’s also about helping them understand that sometimes they have to deal with underlying issues, and other times they have to walk away.

Fostering kids emotional intelligence does not mean protecting them from difficult emotions. On the contrary, we help kids develop their emotional intelligence by showing them that emotions are a part of life – that everyone experiences them – and providing a framework within which they can safely express those emotions in acceptable ways.



Why does emotional intelligence matter?

Much research has been undertaken on emotional intelligence. The studies have found that when we view our kids emotions as important learning opportunities, we help them develop emotional regulation. In this regard, Gottman’s studies have shown that when we validate our kids’ emotions, they are more likely to have better social, academic, and psychological outcomes in the childhood years and beyond.

Several studies have found that the earlier kids are spoken to about emotions (age three), the better they understand and deal with their own emotions and those of others. Other studies have found that even at the end of their second year, kids are able to use emotion-descriptive terms.

There is evidence that verbally explaining the causes and consequences of emotions has an impact on kids’ behavior. Moreover, when we are more empathic, kids are also likely to repair the distress they cause to others and display more altruistic behavior.

In one study, 41 sibling pairs and their mothers were observed when the second child was three years old. They were then observed again when the second child was six-and-a-half years old. One of the study’s objectives was to determine whether talking to kids about feelings and emotions would have an impact on their later ability to identify the feelings and emotions of others.

Although the study does not make it possible to conclude that early family discourse alone causes kids to be more emotionally intelligent, it highlighted interesting results:

  • Kids were more aware of emotions when they were in dispute with others. In other words, social conflict provides an opportunity for parents to talk about emotions. In families where little dispute was observed, kids learned less about emotion regulation.
  • The more frequently kids were spoken to about a range of emotions from age three, the more likely they were to identify the emotions of unfamiliar adults at age six. Kids who had not learned about emotions were less able to accurately identify those emotions.

Much of the available research on emotional intelligence suggests that kids are more likely to understand different emotions when they are provided early opportunities to reflect upon them.

There are, however, three important phases to keep in mind when teaching kids about emotions:

1 | Help kids identify emotions

Helping kids identify different emotions is the first step in helping them develop emotional intelligence. There are multiple ways to teach kids about emotions in fun ways.

When we verbalize different emotions, we help our kids learn to identify them. Being aware of kids’ emotions and giving them a label (e.g. “You look sad”) can also help. Characters in books or even pictures can provide an opportunity to talk about emotions (e.g. “He sure looks happy”).

2 | Identify the factors underlying difficult emotions

Much of kids’ behavior is driven by emotions. Helping kids understand why certain situations make them feel a certain way makes it easier to deal with their emotions. Even when kids are unwilling to talk about what triggers their own emotions, encouraging them to talk about others’ emotions might help them open up.

For instance, when reading a book or looking at an image, you could say, “Why do you think she looks so sad?” Or you could ask how they think a friend would feel in a similar situation. Talking about triggers helps kids reflect about different emotions and makes it easier to identify the appropriate action to take.

3 | Identify how to deal with emotions

The third step involves knowing how to deal with emotions. There are situations we can control. For instance, we can help a child whose constant anger is sparked by sibling rivalry. In other situations, it’s better to “walk away.” Giving kids appropriate tools, such as calm-down jars or boxes, can help them learn to manage anger by themselves.

The thing to remember about emotion regulation is that emotions are everywhere. You can use games to talk to kids about emotions or take advantage of outings to “analyze” the emotions of others.

When it comes to talking to kids about emotions, the options are limitless. The key is to take it one day at a time.

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When you become a parent for the first time, there is an undeniably steep learning curve. Add to that the struggle of sorting through fact and fiction when it comes to advice and—whew—it's enough to make you more tired than you already are with that newborn in the house.

Just like those childhood games of telephone when one statement would get twisted by the time it was told a dozen times, there are many parenting misconceptions that still tend to get traction. This is especially true with myths about bottle-feeding—something that the majority of parents will do during their baby's infancy, either exclusively or occasionally.

Here's what you really need to know about bottle-feeding facts versus fiction.

1. Myth: Babies are fine taking any bottle

Not all bottles are created equally. Many parents experience anxiety when it seems their infant rejects all bottles, which is especially nerve wracking if a breastfeeding mom is preparing to return to work. However, it's often a matter of giving the baby some time to warm up to the new feeding method, says Katie Ferraro, a registered dietician, infant feeding specialist and associate professor of nutrition at the University of California San Francisco graduate School of Nursing.

"For mothers returning to work, if you're breastfeeding but trying to transition to bottle[s], try to give yourself a two- to four-week trial window to experiment with bottle feeding," says Ferraro.

2. Myth: You either use breast milk or formula

So often, the question of whether a parent is using formula or breastfeeding is presented exclusively as one or the other. In reality, many babies are combo-fed—meaning they have formula sometimes, breast milk other times.

The advantage with mixed feeding is the babies still get the benefits of breast milk while parents can ensure the overall nutritional and caloric needs are met through formula, says Ferraro.

3. Myth: Cleaning bottles is a lot of work

For parents looking for simplification in their lives (meaning, all of us), cleaning bottles day after day can sound daunting. But, really, it doesn't require much more effort than you are already used to doing with the dishes each night: With bottles that are safe for the top rack of the dishwasher, cleaning them is as easy as letting the machine work for you.

For added confidence in the sanitization, Dr. Brown's offers an incredibly helpful microwavable steam sterilizer that effectively kills all household bacteria on up to four bottles at a time. (Not to mention it can also be used on pacifiers, sippy cups and more.)

4. Myth: Bottle-feeding causes colic

One of the leading theories on what causes colic is indigestion, which can be caused by baby getting air bubbles while bottle feeding. However, Dr. Brown's bottles are the only bottles in the market that are actually clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to an ingenious internal vent system that eliminates negative pressure and air bubbles.

5. Myth: Bottles are all you can use for the first year

By the time your baby is six months old (way to go!), they may be ready to begin using a sippy cup. Explains Ferraro, "Even though they don't need water or additional liquids at this point, it is a feeding milestone that helps promote independent eating and even speech development."

With a complete line of products to see you from newborn feeding to solo sippy cups, Dr. Brown's does its part to make these new transitions less daunting. And, for new parents, that truly is priceless.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Jessica Simpson celebrated her baby shower this weekend (after getting a cupping treatment for her very swollen pregnancy feet) and her theme and IG captions have fans thinking this was not just a shower, but a baby name announcement as well.

Simpson (who is expecting her third child with former NFL player Eric Johnson) captioned two photos of her shower as "💚 Birdie's Nest 💚". The photographs show Simpson and her family standing under a neon sign spelling out the same thing.

While Simpson didn't explicitly state that she was naming her child Birdie, the numerous references to the name in her shower photos and IG stories have the internet convinced that she's picking the same name Busy Philips chose for her now 10-year-old daughter.

The name Birdie isn't in the top 1000 baby names according to the Social Security Administration, but It has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to name nerds and trend watchers.

"Birdie feels like a sassy but sweet, down-to-earth yet unusual name," Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry told Town and Country back in 2017. "It's also just old enough to be right on time."

Simpson's older kids are called Maxwell and Ace, which both have a vintage feel, so if Birdie really is her choice, the three old-school names make a nice sibling set.

Whether Birdie is the official name or just a cute nickname Simpson is playing around with, we get the appeal and bet she can't wait for her little one to arrive (and her feet to go back to normal!)

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Mamas, if you hire a cleaning service to tackle the toddler fingerprints on your windows, or shop at the neighborhood grocery store even when the deals are better across town, don't feel guilty. A new study by the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School shows money buys happiness if it's used to give you more time. And that, in turn could be better for the whole family.

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As if we needed another reason to shop at Target, our favorite store is offering some great deals for mamas who need products for baby. Mom life can be expensive and we love any chance at saving a few bucks. If you need to stock up on baby care items, like diapers and wipes, now is the time.

Right now, if you spend $100 on select diapers, wipes, formula, you'll get a $20 gift card with pickup or Target Restock. Other purchases will get you $5 gift cards during this promotion:

  • $20 gift card when you spend $100 or more on select diapers, wipes, formula, and food items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select beauty care items
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select household essentials items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select Iams, Pedigree, Crave & Nutro dog and cat food or Fresh Step cat litter items using in store Order Pickup
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select feminine care items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock

All of these promotions will only run through 11:59 pm PT on Saturday, January 19, 2019 so make sure to stock up before they're gone!

Because the deals only apply to select products and certain colors, just be sure to read the fine print before checking out.

Target's website notes the "offer is valid using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock when available".

The gift cards will be delivered after you have picked up your order or your Target Restock order has shipped.

We won't tell anyone if you use those gift cards exclusively for yourself. 😉 So, get to shopping, mama!

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