3 Brilliant Things Pixar's 'Inside Out' Taught Me About Parenting

Photo: IMDB
inside out disney movie

I recently saw the movie Inside Out with my kids, and even though it's marketed to kids, the message is REALLY important for parents, too, because it presents an important topic in an intelligent yet entertaining way.

The movie mostly takes place inside the mind of a young girl, and her emotions — anger, sadness, joy, fear and disgust — are central themes throughout. You get to see representations of the constructs of a kid's emotions, core memories, long-term memories, imagination and subconscious (as well as the interplay of how all of these things may affect behavior). FASCINATING.

Using these themes, the movie made several key points that can help you raise emotionally intelligent kids.

1. Kids Need Permission To Express All Emotions In A Safe Environment

In our society, we tend to separate emotions into two categories: good feelings and bad feelings. In general, if an emotion makes us feel good, we label it as a good feeling. If it makes us feel bad, we label it as a bad feeling. 

As a result, we often communicate to kids that if they feel any way except happy then it's "bad." This can lead to repressing feelings, denial of feelings, guilt and shame, which cause a kid to learn emotionally unhealthy behavior as they age.

In order to stay healthy, we need to have the full expression of all our emotions — they ALL serve a purpose. Kids need permission to feel angry, sad or fearful in a safe, supportive environment. Emotional intelligence (the ability to identify and manage your own emotions as well as the emotions of others) has recently been an important topic. Studies found that it's even more important than IQ as a predictor of success in work and relationships.

2. Kids Need Help Putting Their Feelings Into Words

Kids don't innately have the language for expressing their feelings, which is why they most often express how they feel with their behavior. It's common to see a two year old throw a temper tantrum. But as kids age, they need to transition into learning to express how they feel with their words, rather than with their behavior.

It's helpful for parents to ask their kid how he or she feels. You can help them to draw connections between their body language, their behavior, body responses and their emotions.

For example: "Are you feeling angry? When I feel angry, sometimes my face gets red and my heart starts beating fast. Is that happening to you?" If they can start to put words to their feelings and feel safe expressing their emotions, they're more likely to talk with you rather than act out.  

3. Kids Need Validation Of Their Feelings

In an attempt to calm a situation or alleviate their kid's suffering, many parents invalidate the feelings of their kid — unaware of what they're doing. It's easy to say, "There's no reason to feel scared," or "You shouldn't get upset about that." Often, we're looking at things from our own perspective, not stopping to recognize our kid's point of view.

This sends the message to the kid that they shouldn't feel that way or that their feelings are wrong or bad. If your kid receives this message frequently, it will lead them to feel that they can't express those feelings to you. You aren't safe

It's helpful for parents to validate every feeling, even if you don't agree or understand. It's good to say, "I can see that you're angry. Please help me understand why," or "I can understand why you're disappointed. Would you like to talk about it?" These types of responses send kids the message that their feelings are safe to express, helping them to process through them and move on. 

Helping kids to mature emotionally is just as important as helping them reach success in schoolwork or sports.

In fact, their emotional intelligence is the foundation that all other successes build upon. Being more open in identifying and expressing your own emotions in a safe way and helping your kids to do the same is vital to your kid's development. I highly recommend you see Inside Out with your kids and then start talking.    

Kristen Owen is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Board Certified Professional Christian Counselor. She loves helping people find wholeness by coming to a place of peace with themselves, with others, and with God. Find out more by clicking here.