Don’t Deny How They Feel

It’s time once again for Heather Johnson from Family Volley to share with us some Parenting Tips as part of her Parenting Tips” here on The Idea Room. Here’s Heather in her own words and sharing how parents should support kids and their interests.


Are your kids throwing temper tantrums? Is there arguing and power struggles between you and your children?

It is easy to think it is our children’s fault when their behavior is sub-par. Truth of the matter, it is often our fault as their parents. How? Because as parents, we can make things with our children worse instead of better, when we deny how they are feeling.

What do we mean. Well, here are two examples. Have you ever had conversations like this?

Child: “Mom, I am hungry”

You: “No, you’re not hungry, you just ate.”
Child: “Mom, I don’t want my coat on, I am hot”
You: “You’re not hot, it’s freezing outside. Leave your coat on.”

Can’t you hear the arguments that are about to start. 

“But mom, I am reeeeeeaaaaaally hungry.”
“I just fixed you lunch, you don’t need more food.”
“I know, and I ate my lunch, but I am stiiiiiiiill hungry.”
“You said you were full, you don’t need any more food.”
And on and on and on…. An argument has started. It is probably accompanied by whining, nagging, frustration, and maybe even a temper tantrum or two.

Here is what is funny. There were not any tantrums or arguing until AFTER WE DENIED HOW OUR CHILDREN FELT.

What happens, is that we are constantly denying our children’s feelings. This makes them feel confused and mad, and leads to misbehavior. They don’t feel like they are understood and they stop trusting their own feelings and intuitions. They feel like they have run into a brick wall. A dead end where no one listens and no one understands. So they act out.
We must accept our children’s feelings. It is how THEY feel. Who are we to tell them that how THEY feel is wrong. When we accept our kids and their thoughts and feelings, they feel more respected, more loved and there will be less power struggles because they feel validated and understood.
Just like with adults, it isn’t so much a solution our kids need, as it is to be understood and accepted.

What should we do? How can we respond?

Before we say a single word, we need to be empathetic, and put ourselves in their shoes.
Think about the life of a child for a minute. They have someone telling them what they can and can not do, all. day. long. They are told when to sleep, what to eat, when to play, what to wear. And now, we are also telling them how to feel?
What if you said you were tired, and your husband responded, “You can’t be tired, you got plenty of sleep last night.”

This type of response would not sit well with us at all. It would be frustrating and upsetting. In my head I would be thinking, “How do you know if I am tired or not, or if I got enough sleep for me?” You can quickly see why our kids get so upset.

Stop just for a minute and think about how your kids feel. When I am hungry, I am miserable. I want to eat. When I am hot, I want to take off my coat. Our children are miserable when they are hungry also. They want to eat. When they are hot, they want to take their coat off also.

Second, evaluate why you are denying their feelings.

Most of the time we deny their feelings because it will take extra work for us to acknowledge their feelings. If they are hungry we have to get them more food and clean up more dishes. If they don’t want to wear their coat, we have to carry it. Or put it right back on them when they announce they are now cold.
Do some soul searching and find the root of the reason for the denial. It will teach us a lot about ourselves.

Then, instead of trying to counsel them, give advice our tell them they are wrong, RESPOND WITH A SIMPLE COMMENT…

“Is that so”
“I see”

A simple comment response works wonders. Here is an example.

A while ago our daughter came to me to tell me about something her brother had done. She was playing with the baby and he came in to the room and started taking over, trying to get the baby to play with him.

Instead of counseling her, or getting on her, or telling her it wasn’t a big deal and she should “get over it” (all things I wanted to say), I just said, “hmmm, really?”

Guess what happened? She looked at me, said… “yes he did, he always does that”. And then she ran off to play.

She just wanted her feelings to be validated.

If I had tried to figure out who was in the wrong, or solve the problem, or said anything else, it would have turned into a “power struggle”. Instead, once she felt validated, she dropped it and moved on.

Remember, we should always accept how our children feel. It is okay and normal to feel hungry, frustrated, irritated, happy, excited, and/or mad.

We shouldn’t always accept how our children act. If they are throwing a fit, hitting, or whining because they are hungry, frustrated, or mad, that is NOT okay.

Give it a try. Today, when you are talking with your children, put yourself in their shoes and accept their feelings without any strings attached. Without judging or doubting, or trying to prove them wrong. You will see far less arguments, power struggles and temper tantrums. This will make for a much happier household. 


Have you ever told your child they weren’t hungry because they just ate?
heather johnson


  1. Eva Stephen says

    Hi Heather,
    I must say you have shared so very helpful tips for parents. Yes, it happens many times that parents dont realize how their kids feel about any particular thing. They just see it from their point of view. These are very sensitive things about the kids brought up that parents often dont care of them.

  2. says

    I love you! One of my pet peeves is when I see parents (myself included, at times) not validate feelings. It treacly works wonders. And, even if you have to stick by what you said (such as if they have to stop playing with a toy and it makes them upset), acknowledging their upset with a hug and a “I see you’re feeling very sad you can’t play with that anymore.” That does wonders to clear up any tantrums usually. They just want to know they are heard and they need to know their feelings are right and okay.

    Anyway, I won’t ramble on. Just loved what you wrote & 100% agree (though I think you might have a couple typos saying the opposite of what you meant, though, perhaps I read it wrong. Either way, I knew what you were saying!).

  3. says

    What amazing advice! Thanks so much for sharing this!

    I know as a tween/teen my parents didn’t validate how I thought or felt and it caused a lot of issues in our relationship. I ended up just closing them off. If they didn’t want to listen/or cared/or just wanted to shut me up then why should I share? Even now, with me in my mid-20’s, it’s still hard to communicate with my dad because he doesn’t fully acknowledge what I say.

  4. says

    This was such a great article. I have been so guilty of responding to my kids in the very same ways you talked about. God has been dealing with me a lot this year about my parenting, etc and I really needed to hear this.Thanks so much for sharing! :)

  5. Michelle says

    What if what they’re saying as their feelings isn’t true? Like the “Mom, I’m hunnngry.” When they were done with lunch just 10 minutes ago and I know they ate enough for 2 adults (and they’re 4 years old), I’m assuming they’re not truly hungry, but rather bored. Do I validate that too? Part of me thinks no I shouldn’t, because then I can help them figure out and understand what they’re really feeling instead. Thoughts? I think sometimes little kids don’t know what they’re feeling and how to sort it out.

    • Jenny says

      I’m wondering about this too! I completely believe in validating feelings and love this article, but I also agree with Michelle; sometimes my kids often say they’re hungry when I know they’re really bored or tired but can’t figure it out. I know I do that as well at times–turn to food when what I really need is sleep. That’s not really a healthy thing to do. I’d like to help my kids sort through their feelings as well as validate their feelings…but what’s a good way to do that? Maybe something like this? “Oh, really you feel hungry? Well let’s think about what you just ate. That seems like enough for now, doesn’t it? How about we play a game together.”

  6. Michelle says

    Wasn’t trying to stir anything up. I really am wondering how to go about teaching my kids how to recognize what they’re truly feeling.

  7. Nicole says

    Wow, this sounds like every day in my house. I’m going to try my hardest to give this a shot, and see if it curves some of the tantrums we experience. So glad I got to read this today! Thanks!

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