Mommy Hacks: Teaching Little Ones to be Gentle

Hey guys! Here’s an interesting fact: you know that feeling you get when you see something that is SO cute (like a baby’s chubby cheeks or the furriest little kitten)? And you want to just squeeze and squeeze? Well, there’s actually science behind it that suggests that when we see something that evokes such strong emotion, we want to do something about it. It often triggers an aggressive reaction. Don’t get me wrong, most of us don’t mean any harm, but it’s because of “strong approach motivation”. An intense feeling = an intense (almost) action.

Teaching Kids to Be Gentle

We have this quote up on Aden’s wall.

These feelings are easily switched back and forth in negative and positive experiences. That intense feeling of aggression that comes with a negative experience comes from a similar place. Of course, most adults know not to act out on these strong emotions (we’d never want to harm baby, and similarly, when we’re angry, we generally still do not wish to harm others).

There’s a reason I bring this up, and it has to do with young children and toddlers. They experience the same feelings as we do, and it’s important to see where they’re coming from. Positive experiences – like when Aden is so excited to see his baby sister – can evoke that sort of “she’s so cute, let me squeeze her!” feeling. And because kids at this age go straight to expressing their feelings, they immediately want to do that action (squeeze, shake, bite, etc.).

Teaching Kids to be Gentle

Keep in mind that most of the time when children are acting out, it’s because they don’t know how to express their feelings. Teaching them how to do so in a healthy way means lessening the chances of troublesome behaviors. That quote from Despicable Me, “It’s so fluffy I’m gonna DIE!” comes to mind. Lol. The child really feels the need to do something about this pent up aggression-like feeling.

When your child experiences this feeling, whether because of a positive or negative experience, they need to know how to express it gently, without putting themselves or anyone else in harm’s way. The first step is to teach them exactly what gentle means. If they hit when they mean to pat, explain (gently of course) that this (motion with your hands) is gentle, and that we don’t want to hurt anyone. It can help to guide them physically (on a stuffed animal rather than a living creature, of course). Don’t forget to let them know when they’re expressing a feeling correctly!

A similar time when you can teach a child to be gentle is while they are playing with you. When they’re too rough, take this time to teach a lesson that they’ll carry through to play with other kids, pets, etc. It helps to create rules for play.

Lastly, I’ve noticed how important it is to teach these lessons in a calm manner, as difficult as that can be at times. When welcoming a new baby brother or sister, kids of any age will do anything they can, even unconsciously, to get mommy and daddy’s attention. Acting out as the parent gives them attention – though obviously not the kind they need. And if a negative action guarantees that they’ll grab your attention, be warned that they will repeat it! Keep that in mind so your efforts don’t have the opposite effect.

How did you go about navigating gentility with little ones? Have any other mommy hacks topics you’d like to see?


  • Ina Turner

    Tamera, I still think Ariah looks like her Big brother,and also she has Daddy face in some of her pictures!!!Mommy has to share her looks!!!lol.
    But I do not agree at all with this scientific suggestion that”Strong Emotion”=
    Aggressive Reaction. It seem like another unproven Non-fact that science has come up with. All of OUR behavior are Learned based on the environment in which we were raised or what we have seen others do,or been done to us.
    It is not a normal behavior to want to squeeze,bit etc. a baby or pet unless there is some kind of mental unbalance.
    Now as far as children are concern!!! and we have 3,Its a learned behavior.
    When we had our second, our first is a boy!!boys are a little rough,we had to show him how to be gentle with the baby,he watched us especially his Daddy how we COO and gentle touch the baby and it did not take him long to pick up our behavior.
    This is the reason that we are careful what we allow our 3 Kiddos to watch,even cartons,and what we allow ourselves to watch!!!violence Perversion and bad behavior in movies and on TV. Also we are careful who we allow into our kiddos lives,they do watch and copy. We must take responsibility for our behavior,and stop finding reasons for why we do bad things,don’t get me wrong science has its place in this world,but not to dictate why we are a aggressive violent society=LEARNED BEHAVIOR.
    Blessings,Romans 12: 2

  • Toni Hughes

    You’re one of my biggest role models. You seem so sweet and loving. ☺

  • giselle

    Dear Tamera, my sister is having a baby soon and ,she and i has been looking for names for her little girl but we seem not to find one. please, if it’s possible could you tips us some beautiful names for a baby could be biblical or any other names as long as it has a beautiful meaning. the reason i asked, is beacause you’re my role model and you inspire me alot. You seem so real ,caring and down to earth.With all that being said i would also like to thank you for being such an inspiration to young ladies like 23 and truely your fan ,all the way from Sweden <3 . i watch you on the real ,you guys are the real "INSPIRATION " that youth like me need today, so thank you and the ladies of the real just for being great examples .may Jesus Christ bless you eternity

  • Grace

    Wish there were more celebrities like you being a positive role model. We’ve grown up watching you now youre a mother and wife and still riding the celebrity wave with such dignity. Kudos to you!

    -A Kenyan Girl

  • CambriaJean

    So I know this is an older topic/discussion. But what if your youngest being 6 months old sees her older sister who is 4 years and gets overly excited and starts slapping or pinching or even scratching? I understand she is only 6 months old and definitely doesn’t know any better. But still when is a good time to enforce a gentle behavior in a child this young? If she does that I sternly say her name and tell her not to do said behavior; she just looks at me and does it again with a huge smile on her face. Like she is testing how far she can go. Again I know she is still a baby and doesn’t know better. I’m just wondering if there is a way to nip it now especially with another baby on the way? Advice?