How do you approach your child’s upset?

Nov 10, 2021
Mom hugging child

I’m sure my kids drank wild monkey juice this afternoon. 

It’s 3pm and raining outside and they are playing together. All the games are those I’ve played with them in the past. With couch cushions, my older two are making elevator doors for my daughter and she tries to run through before the “doors” close.  My eldest is having her walk him around the room and bump him into things while he feigns shock and pain. I smile and go into the kitchen to finish making dinner.

The volume and laughter escalate. I’m loving the joy and I am also aware that my middle son was a bit off this morning. As I hear the squeals, I know that sooner or later there will likely be tears.

As I try to get just one more part of dinner done before I join them, I hear it.


I hear my middle son crying and go over. He’s on the floor and I get down next to him, gathering him in my arms.

I don’t say anything, but rather just look him deep in the eyes with the thought “I’m here with you. I’m in this with you.”

“R kicked me and S laughed” he sobs.

The traditional response to this is “maybe you misunderstood” or “I’m sure they didn’t mean it” or moving attention to the other two to have them apologize.

But I said “Yes, that happened. You were playing and having fun and then she kicked you and he laughed. What was that like?”

And he looks me straight in the eyes and cries in my arms. 

Then he starts kicking. I have the other two move away a few feet.

They begin to play the bump into things game again (NOT a proud moment in empathy for mama)

K says “They’re playing. Make them stop.”

I respond “Yes they are playing. And here you are. And here I am.”

More tears.

After a few moments he wiggles out of my arms and hides under a chair. He’s kicking the chair from below. I let him know I’m moving the chair so that he stays safe, I stay safe, and the home is safe. And that he gets to kick.  

He dives under another chair and begins kicking again. He gets me once. I look at him and say lightly “ahhh, don’t kick me.” He smiles and goes for it again. I’ve got a pillow in front of my stomach to catch the kick now. And I declare “well, at least don’t tell S and R that you’re kicking me… then they’ll all be laughing.”

My plan worked perfectly.

The next moment he’s yelling to his siblings about how he’s kicking me.

Within a few minutes of this, they’re playing happily together again.  

Elevators are back up and running. Younger children are in charge of older siblings.  

How do you approach your child's upset? Are you willing to sit with them through their discomfort and yours?