I really want to acknowledge my kid's Big Little Feelings. But the Instagram-famous parenting technique just isn't realistic for me.

I really want to acknowledge my kid's Big Little Feelings. But the Instagram-famous parenting technique just isn't realistic for me.
I wish I could be cool during the times my son gets into trouble.Courtesy of Irina Gonzalez
  • I'm a mom to a toddler who tests me every day.
  • I want to follow the Big Little Feelings approach to parenting, but sometimes I find it so hard.

Screaming "I said NO!" at your toddler is absolutely the wrong thing to do, according to the über-popular Instagram account Big Little Feelings. In a recent post, the account featured a graphic that advised instead saying, "I took it to keep you safe. It's okay to feel mad or sad at me."

I instantly shared the post with my mom friends when I first saw it. It makes me feel good — like I am a great mom capable of being calm and collected in any situation. But the truth is that it's all a lot of virtue signaling.

In reality, I find it impossible to keep my cool in tense parenting situations the way that the founders Deena and Kristin advise in their soothing voices. While I wish I could follow my son's big feelings and guide him through the world more calmly, it simply is an unrealistic approach for me.

I find myself saying 'no' a lot

When my toddler reaches for my coffee cup, I scream "NO!" because I don't want to end up picking shattered porcelain out of his bleeding foot during the morning rush. When he goes from gently touching the cat to suddenly pulling on its tail, I yell "NO!" because I don't want him to get hurt when our cat decides to defend himself. When my toddler looks over the edge of the tallest part of the playground structure, instead of going down the slide where I'm waiting for him, I yell "NO!" because a misstep could send him falling long before I can get to him.

I'm not against my son learning the natural consequences of his actions, but I also don't want him to get hurt, which is why staying calm in these situations is so challenging.


I recently remembered the In The Heat of the Moment episode of the podcast "Hidden Brain," which explained why we could make rational decisions and plans when we're feeling "cool" but will do the opposite when we're in the midst of fear or anger — also known as a "hot" state. This episode sums up why I can read the advice on Big Little Feelings' Instagram account and think, "Yes, that's a great idea. I will stay calm and say that next time," but end up freaking out and screaming, "NO!" in the moment.

Mind you, I love their advice.

I wish I could follow their advice

I would love to be the kind of parent who can follow all of the best advice on the internet, who can stay cool when my toddler does something he shouldn't be doing. I'd love to be someone who can follow their advice to acknowledge what he's doing, then calmly set a boundary, and then validate his feelings about it.

Some days, I am that parent. But most days, their advice is just unrealistic.

I don't know about other parents, but if I see my toddler doing something unsafe, I am quick to jump in and prevent him from hurting himself. I don't know if it's a mama-bear instinct or simply proof that I am too reactionary for my own good, but I can't remember ever being able to give him one warning and then create a "swift, calm boundary."


There often just isn't enough time between my noticing the uh-oh activity and needing to take action to prevent inevitable disaster.

Remembering that I am the "calm, confident leader" of my home is the last thing from my mind in these stressful moments.

I don't think this makes me a bad mom at all. Like every parent trying to keep up with their rambunctious toddlers while living in a worldwide pandemic, I am doing my best. And some days, my best involves screaming "NO!" instead of following unrealistic advice I found on the internet.