Home Family Early Childhood Why ‘Calm Down’ is Not a Good Advice for Anxious Children

Why ‘Calm Down’ is Not a Good Advice for Anxious Children


Children are bundles of emotions. While the ups and downs are natural, managing a child’s anxiety requires more than just asking them to “calm down.” Experts in psychology and education suggest that these two words can do more harm than good. So, what should you do instead?

Why “Calm Down” Doesn’t Work

Telling your child to “calm down” is like pouring water on a grease fire; it seems like the obvious solution, but it only makes things worse. According to Emily Thompson, an educational psychologist and founder of Mindful Parenting Co., the phrase does not help children understand their feelings.

“What we’ve found is that telling children to ‘calm down’ does not validate their emotions. It doesn’t teach them emotional intelligence,” Thompson said during her recent podcast episode featuring child psychologist Sarah Daniels and leadership expert James Campbell.

The Complexity of Emotions

Controlling emotions is not easy, not even for adults. Jennifer Stone, a psychologist, explained in her study that most people advise others to “calm down” when they are anxious, but they seldom manage to do it themselves.

“Anxiety is not a switch you can simply turn off. It’s an intense emotion, and it’s not going anywhere just because you command it to,” Stone stated in her research.

Practical Techniques for Managing Emotions

Experts suggest two alternative strategies that are more effective than simply telling your child to “calm down.”

Breathing Together

Synchronized breathing can work wonders. Emily Thompson suggests, “If you start aligning your breathing pattern with your child’s, you provide a space for them to manage their emotions subconsciously.”

Breathwork techniques like “square breathing” can be useful for adults as well. “When you are calm, your child is more likely to be calm too,” added Thompson.

Reframing Anxiety as Excitement

The second approach is to view anxiety as excitement. James Campbell explains, “Instead of dismissing the anxiety, acknowledge it and channel it towards something positive.”

A study involving anxiety-inducing tasks like public speaking showed that those who were told to “get excited” fared much better than those told to “calm down.”

When dealing with children, switch phrases like “I know you’re anxious, but…” to “I know you’re excited, and…”. This small change can make a world of difference, helping your child be in a better emotional state.

Understanding and managing a child’s emotions is a journey that needs to be navigated with sensitivity and intelligence. The next time your child is anxious, remember that there are more effective ways to help them than simply saying “calm down.”

Written by
Nina LeBeau

Nina is a certified mediator with a background in psychology. She covers a wide range of topics from emotional well-being to stress management for the entire family.

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