Cup and Saucer

We love the idea of the cup a saucer, a simple way to think about managing emotions.

By Momentous Institute | Jan 02, 2015

Dr. Steven Finn has a great concept that we love to use when thinking about managing emotions. We call it the “cup and saucer”.
Think of a child as a cup and the parent as a saucer. A young child has a very small cup. She can hardly contain all of her feelings and emotions. They often spill out over the edge of the cup, and it becomes the job of the saucer (aka the parent or adult) to catch and hold them.
As a child grows, so does her cup. Eventually she might not need the saucer much at all. When we work with young children, it may feel like this day will never arrive. During challenging times, it takes a lot of self-regulation on the part of the parent or teacher to be the saucer, rather than to try and fix things. Just imagine how powerful this shift in thinking can be.
Here’s the situation: a child is throwing a huge tantrum in front of her grandparents. The old you thinks, “This is humiliating. My family thinks I can’t control my child. I need to be more strict with her, so she understands the rules.”
The new you sees a very small cup overflowing with emotion. You understand that she can’t possibly control all of her emotions all the time. You now think, “My child is completely overwhelmed. It doesn’t matter what I say to her, she is using her right brain at the moment and won’t be able to process logic. Let me be the saucer and trust that her cup will continue to grow.”
Then the new you chants to yourself, “Be the saucer. Be the saucer. Be the saucer.”
We love this idea. It’s such a simple shift in thinking, but it makes all the difference in how we act during those difficult moments.