Learning to Rate Your Emotions


Our daughter seems to live from one crises to another.  Every problem is the “worst thing that could ever happen to anybody” and she can become emotional and fall apart over the smallest disappointment or setback.  What can we do to help her be less emotional?


At the outset it’s important for you to remember that emotional is not a dirty word.  While most people use it to describe someone who has a hard time controlling their emotions and acts irrationally, it can also describe someone who is expressive of and appropriately manages their emotions.

The bad news is that this pattern isn’t fun for you or your family.  The good news is that these “breakdowns” give you a unique opportunity to help her understand and manage her God-given emotions.

One exercise that I’ve effectively used with adults who struggle with overacting is to teach them how to determine if the issue is a low-ticket or a high-ticket item by rating it on a scale from 1-10.  A 1 means it might bug you but it’s not that big of a deal.  A 10 means that it’s a life-or-death situation that must immediately be dealt with.

A good friend of mine adapted this for his preschool kids by making it a ‘Little Deal” or a “Big Deal” scale.  He used the 1-10 to help them define what is “little” and what is “big” and when there was what seemed like an overreaction he simply asked them if it was a “big” or “little” deal and then determine how big or little it was.  At first it was challenging but eventually they caught onto it and actually had fun with it.

Once the size of the issue was identified it was easy to discuss what a healthy response might look like, and they began to see that a 1 or a 2 issue didn’t warrant a 9 or 10 response.  This helped them better understand and manage their emotions and grow in their self-control, which is a part of the fruit of the Spirit.

When God made us in His image He gave us a mind, a will and emotions.  Most parents help their kids develop their mind and will but do little in helping them understand and deal with their emotions.  When you put this “problem” put in God’s hands it becomes an opportunity to for you to better understand, love and encourage your daughter and help her see how the Holy Spirit can help transform her unhealthy “reactions” that hurt to healthy “responses” that can heal and make her life so much better.

Gary J. Oliver, ThM, PhD
Executive Director at Center for Healthy Relationships | + posts

Dr. Oliver is the Executive Director of The Center for Healthy Relationships, and professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University.  He has authored over 20 books and more than 350 professional and popular articles.  Dr. Oliver has over 40 years’ experience as a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage  & Family Therapist and Spiritual Director.  He leads seminars & workshops both nationally and internationally on a variety of counseling-related issues, healthy relationships as well as Emotional & Relational Intelligence (ERI).

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