Parents, are you working harder than your children are for their happiness? Are you helping the become emotionally strong children?
Years ago, when kids were unhappy, they were told a variety of things.
Deal with it.
Life isn’t fair.
I’ll give you something to cry about.
Figure it out.
Why did parents respond this way to children? I am sure there is some exact psychological explanation, but since I do not have that, I am going to say that the parents themselves were unhappy, impatient, and too focused on their own issues, hurts, or tasks to appropriately guide their children.
This produced a generation of people that felt disconnected and unhappy as children so they became the “I want to give my child everything I didn’t have as a kid” sort of parents.
As a teacher and mom of a 7 year old, I am surrounded by parents who go to extreme lengths to make sure their children are happy.
They buy them way too much.
Feed them way too much.
Take them out way too much.
Solve every problem way too much.
Say yes way too much.
Give in to tantrums and whining way too much.
And the whole family is stressed way too much.
And you know what? Those kids are still not happy.
Parents, you are not the source of your child’s happiness. You never will be. Happiness, contentment, peace, joy, or whatever you personally want to call that feeling that is absent of negativity, does not come from you. It doesn’t come from stuff. It doesn’t come from experiences.
It comes from a holistic combination of physical, mental, and spiritual health. And it is our job to learn to find that health as adults and to teach our children to find the same thing.
So here are a few tips to help our children build emotional strength and find their own “inner peace.”
Acknowledge Emotions and Feelings
We have been hard wired to think negative emotions are bad and sweep them under the rug. Teach your children to acknowledge their negative emotions while guiding them toward a positive one. Try this phrase with your child (or yourself) the next time something doesn’t go her way.
Example: You tell your child she can’t have any more screen time or a sibling is playing with something she wants and she has a meltdown. You might be used to caving in or automatically telling her you will play with her instead.
Parent: Hey kid that I love, are you feeling frustrated/mad/upset? It’s okay to feel that way. I get frustrated too when I don’t get what I want. But the important thing is that we don’t stay in that feeling. Feel it and then let’s find a way back to feeling content again. What can YOU do to help yourself feel better right now?
Kid says: “Nothing!!! The iPad is the ONLY thing that makes me happy.”
Parent: “Well, that makes me sad that of all the things you have to play with in your room and the bike/scooter you have outside, that a tablet is the only thing that can make you happy. Why don’t you try something else for a little while and I will set the timer to see if after that amount of time you can’t find something else.”
It’s okay if your child sits and pouts for a long time. It’s okay if they cry on their bed for not getting their own way. These moments will get shorter and shorter as you respond with compassion and acknowledgement, but then put the onus on them to fill their time and be content with what they have.
Example: Your son is upset that his friend at school only plays with another boy at recess now instead of him.
Parent: “Oh man, kid that I love. That would make me really sad too. What do YOU think YOU can do to solve that issue at school?”
Kid: “Nothing. I have no friends!”
Parent: “Would you like one of my ideas that would help me not to feel so sad at recess?”
I like to offer my sweet girl advice to find a friend who looks lonely like her or to even play alone for a day. It usually passes quickly and she either heals her friendship in her own kid way or finds new friends to play with.
Teach a Growth Mindset with the Power of Yet
Kids often say they aren’t good at something. Adults often say we aren’t good at something or we just don’t like something. And that mindset keeps us stuck in moments we often think of as unhappy.
That is a fixed mindset.
Kids in math class. A hard passage of reading. Riding a bike.
And some parents will let kids quit or do it for them rather than listen to a child whine or get frustrated.
When your child says she just can’t do math, add the words part and yet.
“You just can’t do this part of math yet. But you will learn it.”
Ask her to tell you the parts of math she can do. Jot them on a sticky note and stick it to her math book with the word yet. Encourage her to read the sticky note and remind herself to keep trying
Delay Gratification-Less is More
In a world where everything is instant we often want that instant peace and sanity when our kids want what they want and are relentless in requesting it. So we give in to get the peace we are craving.
Remind yourself that it is okay to say no without promising something in the future.
You can tell your child they have enough LEGOS and refuse to buy “just one more surprise pack.”
You can say no to having friends over this weekend because you worked hard all week and you want the house to be calm.
You can say no to dessert every night.
Less is more. When your child gets a little extra after having had less, the appreciation level increases.
Tomorrow I will share a few more ways to help your child build emotional strength.
Don’t give up, sweet mommas! We can do this thing called parenting.
Keep making your house a love filled home.
High five for home!