Validating someone’s emotions means acknowledging them. You are not agreeing or disagreeing with the feelings; you are demonstrating that you hear the other person.
You likely have noticed that logic does not go over well with a child throwing a tantrum. For example, let’s say your child throws a tantrum while demanding a cookie before dinner. “Why are you so unhappy? You know you cannot have dessert before dinner,” you point out logically. Most likely, the child’s ears will close, and the tantrum will escalate because they don’t feel heard. Instead, validating their emotions can help them identify how they are feeling, which is one step toward helping them regulate or calm their emotions.
In this case, you can state, “You’re angry with me because I won’t give you a cookie before dinner.” Sometimes, you might just validate the feeling and leave it at that. Other times, a second clause helps illustrate that two opposing statements can be true at the same time: “You’re angry with me because I won’t give you a cookie before dinner, and you can have one after dinner.” If you’re trying this, it’s important to use the conjunction “and” and not “but.” That way, you won’t negate the first part of the clause.
Your child probably won’t smile and agreeably walk away. However, validating can prevent an escalation of the tantrum and curtail the intensity of the emotion.