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3 Steps to Help Your Child Regulate Their Emotions

3 Steps to Help Your Child Regulate Their Emotions

CrabbieMasters is imaginary fun that results in children learning how to regulate their emotions. Daniel Goleman’s 1995 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence, popularized the concept that emotion regulation is made up of a variety of skills that contribute to emotional intelligence. Emotion regulation refers to one’s ability to tune in to what is happening emotionally to oneself and others in a given moment, use strategies to manage the emotion and continue to engage in necessary activities even when distressed.

The first Crabbies were drawn in 1990. Without recognizing exactly what was going on, as the kids and I were becoming CrabbieMasters, what we were doing was in fact taking control of our emotions. In other words, being a CrabbieMaster is a means of emotional regulation as described above.

Here are three steps to take with the CrabbieMasters program in teaching your child to regulate their emotions:

  • Tune in to what is happening emotionally. 
  • If you or your child become emotionally off, acknowledge it! Maybe you feel irritated, maybe sad, or someone had a meltdown. Recognize this as being caused by one of the Crabbies.

    For example, one year we frequently noticed that at around 10:30 in the morning some kind of conflict between kids would break out. (E.g. someone did not want to help clean up; someone else sat under a tree, “because no one wants to play with me”)

    As CrabbieMasters we knew we had to figure out which Crabbie was causing this. On the surface it seemed like Get-Along and Hurry-Up could be culprits. But, we also noticed that it was the same kids who were hitting this daily mood shift. Normally, they did not have issues with getting along with others. What did they have in common? Turns out they had moms who were teachers who had all been shifted to an earlier start time. This meant their children had to get up and ready an hour earlier too, so they were coming extra early before the official preschool day started. Guess what?! After talking to all the moms, we realized their kids simply weren’t hungry enough to eat much for breakfast before they arrived.  AND by 10:30 - wham! Simple solution: we gave them an extra snack, around 8:30, before the others arrived for preschool. Problem solved! Everyone was good to go until we had lunch. It was the Hungry Crabbie! AND to make it fun, we called the small group The Breakfast Club!

  • Use strategies to manage the emotions.
  • Figure out which Crabbie may be getting us and do what it takes to beat that Crabbie. CrabbieMasters know: Too-Tired means you need sleep or a Power-Up; Hungry means you need to eat; etc.

    Hint: very often, it's one of what we call the Primary Crabbies!


    It may help to acknowledge your own emotions first, or a time that a Crabbie got the best of you. Help your child learn that emotions and Crabbies impact us all, regardless of age.

    The CrabbieMaster mantra says it: “We know what they like. We just don’t do it. We know what they don’t like. We get right to it.”

  • Continue to engage in necessary activities even when distressed.
  • CrabbieMasters know how to “turn our day around.” Even better, with practice, we learn to manage the Crabbies ahead of time so that we avoid many stressful times.

    As described above, we recognized that sometimes the Hungry Crabbie sneaks in. In addition to providing a snack for ‘the breakfast club,’ we now also recognize that other children may have a low spot mid-morning. Simply recognizing it helps the child push through until we have lunch.

    Since I first came up with the concept, early development of emotion regulation skills has been scientifically linked to improved school performance, better social relationships and better overall well-being in life. According to Coleman, “we should be teaching kids regularly, over time, and in a systematic way self-awareness, self-management, empathy and social skills.” These are all the “real results” that are trademarks of CrabbieMasters.

    Simply put, CrabbieMasters is Social and Emotional Learning Disguised as Fun!

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