Emotions are an important part of childhood and a child’s development, but they are often confusing for child and parent alike!

Whether you are attempting to lead an anxious child off to soccer practice for the first time, trying to soothe a frustrated child during a homework meltdown or refereeing an argument between siblings, you have probably found yourself wondering what to do and say during these tense moments!

I want to share with you a strategy, called “Name It To Tame It,” that you can use in the midst of big emotions with your child to help them soothe and regulate when the emotional waves are crashing in.

Before we step into the “how to,” it’s important to pause and reflect on our go-to responses. Often our first reaction to our child’s emotions may be to respond with something along the lines of:

  • “You’re ok, don’t worry about it.”
  • “It’s not scary, you’ll be safe.”
  • “Don’t cry, we’ll fix it.”

Maybe these work some of the time, but maybe you have found that no amount of reassurance or distraction can help your child through some of their biggest emotions.

This is because what children need most in these moments is not distraction or solutions, but rather to feel understood by the important people in their life.

Dan Siegel, author of The Whole Brain Child, developed a strategy for parents to use in the midst of big emotions, called “Name It, to Tame It.”  The idea is to help your child name the overwhelming emotion through words.

This has a “taming” effect, as the child feels heard and understood and is confident that their experience in the world is valued by the people that mean the most to them.

“Name It to Tame It” Examples:

If your child is scared and hiding behind you, you might say:  “Wow, that was so scary! You didn’t like that part of the movie.”

If your child is frustrated and angry during homework time, you might say: “Man this homework is so frustrating! I bet you just want it to be over already!”

If your child is feeling anxious about a new activity, you might say: “Sounds like you are feeling nervous about soccer practice. Thanks for telling me.”

If your child is feeling sad that their grandparents left today, you might say:  “It’s so hard to say goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa. It’s ok to miss them. I miss them too.”


Benefits of “Name It To Tame It”:

  1. Your child feels seen, heard, respected and calmed.


  2. Your child learns words for emotions, as well as respectful ways to respond to others’ emotions.


  3. After building connection and trust in the relationship, you can help your child move into cooperative problem-solving about the situation.


  4. You can support the ongoing development of healthy connections in their growing brain.

Don’t get caught in those emotional waves! If you want to learn more about how to grow as an emotional guide for your child, give me a call today.

Photo by Austin Pacheco on Unsplash

Ally Berttucci

Ally Berttucci

Child & Family Therapist | MA

I work with parents and children to build bridges and lasting connections so that your family can continue to grow, play and explore together.

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