Does your child want to express emotions but don’t know how to? Do you ask your child to use words to express themselves? Children around the age of two understand basic emotions such as happy, sad, scared and angry. Many children around the age of 3 and 4 most often do not know how to express themselves with words. Most often the manner in which they tend to express themselves is portrayed as tantrums.

Children can get overwhelmed with trying to understand and communicate their emotions. Making it harder for them to express themselves in challenging situations. As a parent you would feel nice if your child can express themselves by saying “ I am upset” or “ I am angry”.

Here are some tips to help your child express their emotions in the right manner:

  • Resist punishments: If your child is throwing tantrums, try and resist the urge of punishing (spanking/ time out/ consequences) him/her whilst trying to correct his/ her behaviour. Punishing them does not help them deal with expressing their emotions. Resorting to these methods only leads to your child bottling up his/ her emotions. Most often this results in your child having a bad day.
  • Identify the feeling: Try and have a picture card of different emotions/ colour cards and associate them to a feeling. Every time your child is having a tantrum or is having difficulty expressing them, create a routine for your child, whereby they pick up the emotion card he/ she is feeling. This helps you understand what your child is feeling and can work around it. For example: If your child is angry he/ she will pick up a red colour or a card with the emotion of anger.
  • Cues to the rescue: For a child, it can be hard to express and identify their emotions/ feelings. As a parent, it is key for you to observe your child’s body language/ behaviour and listen to them. For example: During lunch time your child may be more irritable, it may be because your child is hungry.
  • Identify feelings with characters: Your child may learn about feelings and how to express themselves appropriately by reading your child a book or watching movies around the area of feelings and reflect on the character’s emotions. Cartoons or books are the best way to reflect with your child how they would feel if they were put in such situations.
  • Conversations around others feelings: If you engage in conversations with your child be mindful of their emotions and their emotions towards others. For example, “When you called your sister names, she felt sad and her feelings were hurt. You can ask your child how they would feel if someone did the same to him/ her.
  • Model behaviour: Your child is always watching and imitating every move of you and all the adults in the house. When your child watches adults expressing their feelings in a healthy manner, they learn to do the same over time. If they see you yelling and throwing objects when you are angry or upset, they are more likely to imitate the behaviour they have witnessed. It can be hard for you as a parent to model healthy mannerisms, however, in front of the child, if you as a parent can be mindful of your feelings and emotions, the child is more likely to model positive emotions.

It is key that children learn to identify and express their emotions in the right manner. If your child learns to express themselves in a manner in which they are less likely to have meltdowns, temper tantrums and be defiant.


  • Prevent Behavior Problems by Teaching Your Child About Feelings. (2020).
  • 9 Ways To Teach Children About Feelings – Kiddie Matters. (2020).

by Shonalli Ponnappa, Special Educator and Ashwini HJ, Psychologist