How to Coach Your Toddler Through Their Emotions

We’ve all experienced a time when our toddler has thrown a tantrum over a cup being the wrong colour or a toy they like being played with by another child. While these reactions may seem illogical at first, it all comes down to your toddler’s ability to express how they’re feeling. When they can’t express how they’re feeling, or they’re overcome with emotion and don’t understand it, it can lead to longer, more intense tantrums or meltdowns.

While this is typical behaviour for a toddler, one thing you can do to possibly minimise these big reactions is to coach your toddler through their emotions! As they learn more about why they’re feeling certain emotions and how to communicate those emotions effectively, you may start noticing smaller reactions to the minor issues that your toddler runs into. Here are some tips on how to coach your little one through emotions.

Lead by example

Toddlers love to imitate other people, as it shows them how they should act in various situations. This is important to remember when trying to coach your young one’s emotions. Parents all too often won’t express their emotions in the best way by yelling when frustrated or angry and not providing an explanation, or even just bottling up the emotions. Toddlers will often imitate this behaviour, but when they’re being told to talk it out or calm down, it can confuse them since it’s not what they’re used to.

When you as the parent are upset, try using positive words around your toddler to help mould how your toddler believes they should act in situations when they’re mad or frustrated.  Remember to define the emotion you’re feeling when around your toddler such as, “I am frustrated right now, I cannot figure out how to do this” or, “I am upset right now, because this plate broke.” Doing this will help toddlers learn about emotions and act in the right context.

Talk through emotion in the moment

Toddlers have a limited vocabulary and when negative emotions are heightened, their vocabulary becomes even more limited. Toddlers will start to use grunting, crying, and pouting, but most of the time, parents will know what their toddler is trying to convey. Parents can help their toddlers express what they’re feeling by saying things like, “You are mad, because I won’t buy you this toy.” Although this seems simple, this teaches your toddler what emotions they are expressing and how they can link it to words.

The more this happens, the more your toddler will be able to link their emotions to their words and tell you how they are feeling and why. This builds emotional intelligence from an early age! Something that can help with this is setting up a mirror when your toddler is feeling different emotions, so they can see what the emotions look like on their face, and they can recognise them on other peoples’ faces as well.

Point out emotions of others

If you want to show your toddler what different emotions look like, you can point out people who are expressing different emotions and ask your toddler if they can recognise which emotion it is and why they may be feeling like that. If you see a man who is looking angry, you can ask your toddler, “Look at that man over there, what emotion do you think he is feeling now?”

Doing this same exercise while reading books is also an effective way to teach your little one about emotions. Stories often come with lots of characters who feel different emotions throughout the storyline. When the characters accomplish something or run into a challenge, talk with your little one and explain the emotions to help them learn.

Getting your toddler to label emotions they see not only will increase their emotional vocabulary, but also improve their empathy towards others. Your toddler will be able to read social situations and react in an appropriate way, which can help with making friends and starting activities like day care or group activities.

Start doing feeling check-ins

Having a daily check-in where you, your partner, and your toddler will express something that made you feel a positive emotion and a negative emotion that day can be an effective way for your toddler to learn more about emotions. You can get your toddler to name a specific positive and negative emotion each day, or let them pick one of each. This gets them thinking about different emotions when they are calm, and gives you a chance to talk more about the emotions and how they handled the situations!


Emotions are a difficult thing for toddlers to understand as they have not experienced them for very long. As a parent, it is important that you coach your toddler through their emotions, so they learn how to express their own emotions properly and identify other people’s emotions. We hope with these tips and tricks, your little one will start to learn all about emotions!

Tags: Parent's Corner