Childlike Emotions

5 mins read

I used to be an elementary teacher at an alternative education school. We taught kids who were living at a psychiatric residential treatment facility and most had complex trauma histories and many had complex behavior issues. 

I thought that this experience would bode well with my ability to handle my toddler. And not that it hasn’t, but there is really nothing like journeying alongside a toddler and their constantly fluctuating emotional experiences.

Some days, it’s flat-out hard, confusing and difficult to not take their upset mood personally.

But, I came across a thought from Rick Rubin in his book “The Creative Act: A Way of Being.” He says:

These childlike superpowers include being in the moment, valuing play above all else, having no regard for consequences, being radically honest without consideration, and having the ability to freely move from one emotion to the next without holding on to story. For children, each moment in time is all there is. No future, no past. I want it now, I’m hungry, I’m tired. All pure authenticity.

Rick Rubin, “The Creative Act: A Way of Being”

Still, reading it now, I’m awestruck by the thought of children moving through one emotion to the next without holding on to story. All pure authenticity. Because that’s wholly beautiful.

How does holding on to various stories affect my relationship with emotions? Most of the time, I think it leads me to suppress. I don’t want to burden others with what I’m going through because they look exhausted and are surely going through plenty on their own without carrying some of mine. 

Some emotions beckon me to do things that are uncomfortable for me, like confront somebody, so I ignore them. I’m also a recovering people pleaser. So I’m often evaluating my emotions and assessing them on how I think you want me to feel. In short, my emotions are always being run against at least my story and the stories of the people I’m interacting with.

Now, I’m not saying the answer here is to all bust out in a toddler-like tantrum when we get upset. But, I do think it is worthwhile to watch a toddler and see how freely they feel their emotions. Can our reactions be different than a toddler’s? Absolutely. But, at least for me, some of my current reactions do not fully allow me to feel my emotions. 

I want to better allow myself to fully feel my emotions, while also choosing reactions and coping skills that align with my age.

I want to better allow myself to fully feel my emotions, while also choosing reactions and coping skills that align with my age.

And you know what shifting to this mindset and then watching my son reminds me of? Just how quickly we can move through hard emotions if we just let ourselves feel them. I don’t always appreciate it in the moment, because I’m thrown off by how my son just went from joyfully happy to very angry and onto contentment in the blink of an eye. But, when I reflect back, I am reminded of how fluid our emotions are meant to be.

This also reminds me of Jesus encouraging us to have childlike faith. I have understood this in different ways throughout my faith journey. And currently, I think this quote is part of it, too. 

In a similar way that toddlers feel their emotions and let you know it, I think Jesus wants that from us, too. He wants us to show up with all pure authenticity. Whatever that may look like because it means we are showing up and we are being there with Him. 

So, next time you are with your toddler or in the presence of one, take some time to sit back and see what it is like to be purely authentic with your emotions.


Kylie Larson, MA, LPC

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Outside of the therapy room, Kylie enjoys spending time with her family, exploring the world through the eyes of her son, adventuring with her husband, running around with her dogs, cheering on our Kansas City teams, gardening, being active, reading and exploring new recipes.

Professional Background
Bachelors in Elementary Education from Kansas State University, 2015
Master of Arts in Counseling from MidAmerica Nazarene University, 2020

Kansas Counseling Association
American Counseling Association

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